Pope Family Battle: Like The Godfather

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But it didn't happen. In 1988, Gene died of a heart attack. His will stipulated that the paper should be sold. Then 21, Paul put together an investment group that came up short of the final price tag, $412.5 million. After the sale, Lois received $200 million. Her son pocketed $20 million (as did three other siblings: Lois' two daughters from a previous marriage and Gene's sister, Lorraine, who has Down syndrome). Despite the payday, Pope was crushed about losing the legacy.

"When I didn't get the paper, when it was sold out from underneath me, that was the true death of my father," Paul says today.

Paul spent the next decade running wild, a 20-something with the ego of a stymied Citizen Kane and all the id a deep bank account can provide. He bought Ferraris and cigarette boats and boozed his way through South Florida nightclubs. Three Cadillacs rented from the same agency were totaled on three subsequent nights. Drunk friends were given $1,000 to swim the Intracoastal Waterway.

The party eventually slowed down after a fling ended in a pregnancy in 2000. He had a daughter, and two other children by two additional women followed. Paul began rummaging through his own family history and eventually produced the 2010 book The Deeds of My Father. It's a bittersweet coda on the family story — "A real page-turner," Dominick Dunne gushed on the book jacket.

Throughout the 2000s, the Popes asked the courts to referee their disputes. Although his mother footed Paul's bills while he was writing his book, in 2006, she sued him for repayment of $340,000. A countersuit followed in which Pope, then 38, claimed his mother had backed out on promises, including a $1 million yearly allowance and $5 million for a new residence. In 2007, Pope also sued his mother and CitiBank over the state of the family trust, charging mismanagement because the principal had failed to grow since his father's death.

The latest legal squabble between the Popes revved up in late 2012. According to the son, it was then that he learned Lois had taken out kidnapping insurance on his kids. When Pope pressed for the reason, his mother demurred. This seemed to Paul a threat. "We're not living in a Third World country," he reasons today.

Paranoid or not, he hired more bodyguards and began losing sleep over the stress. "Typically you take [kidnapping insurance] out on your spouse or sometimes on your children," says Paul's lawyer, Michael Schlesinger. "Lois took it out on Paul's children, and that's just not typical when you're taking out insurance."

When Paul began circulating binders full of accusations about his mother's spending and charitable donations, Lois retaliated by filing for a restraining order. The document describes a son who continually asks for more money and gets ugly when refused. In 2007, a settlement was reached that allegedly awarded Paul and his siblings an additional $12 million. In an April court hearing, Lois also said she'd given her son $4 million last year. More recently, Lois claims she refused to pay more than $300,000 in legal debts Pope has racked up.

"His calculated attack to publicly humiliate Lois Pope serves no purpose other than to extort his elderly mother," Lois' petition states. According to the paperwork, Lois fears her son could harm her, citing two past incidents of domestic abuse reported by former girlfriends (the charges were later dropped). At a hearing in early April, a Palm Beach County judge continued the case for 30 days.

As he waits for a ruling, Paul dismisses both his mother's account and the suggestion that he's debt-heavy and looking for another payday. "I never stalked my mother," he says. "Never, never would I want harm done to her in any way, shape, or form."

But he also isn't idle. He's hunkered down in his offices in Weston, where his constantly booming voice sends a staff of six darting around the suites. The beehive of activity is churning out letters to lawyers and accountants. Coming down the pike, Pope promises more lawsuits. He's tightlipped on the details but hints his latest round again focuses on the main flash point in his life: the Enquirer sale.

"Let's say at the time of the father's death, the major asset was the National Enquirer," says his lawyer, Schlesinger. "Let's say years later, it turns out, in addition to the Enquirer, there were offshore accounts that were distributed off the books. Right now, we're investigating whether they exist."

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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson