The Mansion Trap


A $30 million Florida mansion: Veronica Hearst’s undoing.

Hearst Castle
In January 1995, Veronica DeGruyter Beracasa de Uribe Hearst gave an intimate lunch for Diana, Princess of Wales, in her opulent apartment on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 66th Street. The Princess was in New York to give an award to the then editor of Harper’s Bazaar magazine and fellow Englishwoman, Liz Tilberis. Tilberis had asked Veronica, a clotheshorse with a love of couture, to host the lunch. Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld was there, along with photographer Patrick Demarchelier. So too was the Princess’s great friend Lucia Flecha de Lima, the wife of the Brazilian ambassador to the U.S.—and also Patti Hearst, Veronica’s famous hostage-turned-urban-guerrilla-turned-housewife stepdaughter. So, of course, was Veronica’s husband, Randolph Apperson Hearst, Tilberis’s ultimate boss as chairman of the Hearst Corporation, which owns Harper’s Bazaar and other magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Town & Country, and Esquire. Randy, as he was known, was the last surviving son of the American newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst.

For Veronica Hearst, then in her 50s, it was the kind of social standing for which she had strived her whole life. A tall, pale-faced, and raven-haired beauty, she had, during her previous two marriages, occasionally been featured in the pages of fashion and society magazines, but her marriage to Randy had enabled her to become a major player in Manhattan café society—attending many benefits and dinners, which Randy, not previously a social type, found he enjoyed immensely. His new wife made him feel like a king.

“Everything was beautiful, immaculately done,” says Patti Hearst. Entertaining was Veronica’s specialty. She always did it elegantly—gushing over guests, importing titled Europeans to add glamour to the mix. “She had a sense of drama,” says one frequent guest.

Her husband found his new wife titillating, stimulating, and alluring. He bragged of their physical chemistry to his men friends. He liked that she expanded his horizons. The year before the Diana lunch, the Hearsts had made the cut for a dinner given by President Clinton for the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Other guests at the White House included Cabinet members, a Supreme Court justice, former Washington Post publisher Kay Graham, Oprah Winfrey, CBS chairman Laurence Tisch, Barbra Streisand, and Peter Jennings. At the last minute Randy could not attend, as his adult daughter Catherine had fallen ill and doctors feared it could be fatal (it wasn’t). He flew to Los Angeles to be with her, but Veronica went to the White House on her own. Such behavior did not win her affection from other Hearst family members, but, as one person connected to the family puts it, Veronica never minded what they thought of her. She had only one focus: Randy.

He plunged into a new lifestyle with his new wife. A stretch Mercedes was ordered that was so enormous it turned out to be too long for the garage and had to be returned. There was the new apartment on Fifth Avenue and talk of purchasing a house in the Hamptons—until they applied to become members of the Southampton Bathing Corporation, the Waspy members-only beach club. According to a family member, Randy was accepted; Veronica was not. The talk ended.

When Randy looked at the bills from the couture houses where Veronica had been shopping, he gasped in surprise, but Veronica claimed, according to Patti, that in fact she’d gotten the items at less than the original asking prices. The way she saw it, she told her husband, she was saving money. And so, in this vein, went the glittering life of Mr. and Mrs. Randolph Hearst, culminating in July 2000 with the $30 million purchase of Villa Venezia, a 52-room, 28,000-square-foot mansion in Manalapan, Florida. Twelve miles south of Palm Beach, the estate stretched between the ocean and Lake Worth.

According to Patti, Randy had been reluctant to buy it; he was ill with prostate cancer and would die five months after the purchase. He told his children that if he was going to spend money on property in Florida it would be more wisely invested in Palm Beach itself. But Veronica loved the house for its grandeur and history. (It is a former Vanderbilt home.) “We got this for your father because he loves to swim in the wintertime,” she told her stepdaughter Anne.

Veronica could not have known at the time that this particular extravagance was to be her undoing.

On February 25 of this year, Villa Venezia was foreclosed on for $22 million by New Stream Secured Capital, which held the mortgages. It emerged that Veronica owed them a further $23 million. In a deposition she gave in October 2007, she admitted that in a desperate bid to keep the mansion she had pledged $3 million on her artwork, and she had used as collateral both her Westchester mansion and her Fifth Avenue apartment, apparently in violation of the cooperative’s housing rules. The board stayed quiet publicly, but sources say its members were upset.

Veronica was revealed in the columns of the New York Post’s “Page Six” and elsewhere as a woman with $45 million in debts who was living a life she could not afford. People who know her said she withdrew from her high-profile social life. (She declined to talk to Vanity Fair for this article.) “She will mind deeply what her reference points—namely the titled Europeans she was so fond of—think,” says one friend. Another person said, “She has been holed up in a cave.”

Randy Hearst had told his lawyer Robert Littman to look out for Veronica after his death. He knew that the terms of his father’s will prevented him from leaving her enough money to continue the lavish lifestyle they had enjoyed. But Veronica refused for a disastrously long time to accept that reality.

An Old Man in Possession of a Large Fortune

Randy Hearst’s five daughters—Catherine, 69, Virginia, 59, Patti, 54, Anne, 53, and Victoria, 51—are staggered by how their stepmother could have let her finances fall into such disarray. They believed she was smarter than this—after all, it had taken her only months to win their father’s hand in marriage. “How could she have been so foolish?” one of them asks.

Despite Randy’s illness, Veronica, thought to be 63, appears to have been totally blindsided by his death (of a stroke) in 2000. Although his fortune had been estimated by Forbes in 1999 at $1.6 billion, according to the very strict limitations set by the will of William Randolph Hearst, Randy was able to leave her only $4 million in cash and real estate worth around $60 million, but eventually encumbered by mortgages amounting to $45 million. Had Veronica sold Villa Venezia, bought with a $25 million mortgage, she might have been able to dig herself out of financial trouble.

But, according to Baroness Hélène de Ludinghausen, who has known Veronica since childhood, Veronica’s lifestyle with Randy had taken her into a fantasyland that no one—not even Robert Littman—could talk her out of. When offers came in for the house, she turned them down, according to Palm Beach real-estate broker Linda Gary. One friend suggested that, if she was hoping to remarry, the house would be part of her allure. She even invited Tony Blair to dinner there. But despite friendships with such wealthy men as philanthropist David Rockefeller Jr. and Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helú, no one materialized to replace Randy Hearst. And her debts grew. “I stopped calling her when I came to New York,” says de Ludinghausen. “Simply because I got tired of hearing the ‘me, me, me.’” Another friend says, “It was almost as if, having married Randy, she had, like Icarus, flown too high.”

“She gave me $50,000. Had I known she was in financial trouble, I would never have asked her for the money,” says Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, who hosted a fund-raiser for London’s Tate gallery last summer. At the time no one had any idea that Veronica was cash-strapped.

It was Anne Hearst’s nanny who brought Randy and Veronica together, in 1987. Veronica by this time had two husbands behind her. Her second, Colombian cement magnate Andrés Uribe, married her only 50 days before dying of brain cancer. Following Uribe’s death, there ensued an acrimonious two-year legal battle over his estate, so Anne, according to a close source, was wary of Veronica. Still, Veronica repeatedly told her of her religious devoutness (she is a Seventh-Day Adventist), and claimed that she had plenty of her own money. She suggested to Anne that they help a nanny they both employed with a loan for a house in Venezuela. Veronica offered to act as interpreter, since the nanny’s English was poor.

According to Anne, Veronica met Randy at his apartment in the Essex House hotel, on Central Park South, in New York. Anne remembers that Veronica looked very chic in a white suit and pearls. “I don’t think [her appeal] is based on sex, to tell you the truth.… It’s more to do with her image: sophisticated, religious, non-promiscuous,” says de Ludinghausen. According to Anne, that evening Veronica charmed Randy, then 71. Three days later, he asked her out, and a furious courtship ensued. She would give him little notes, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull–like,” recalls Patti; he gave her a box, inscribed “I love you” in Dutch. The nanny got her loan. Veronica got Randy.

The Hearst daughters watched in awe at how diligently Veronica looked after their father. Patti recalls that Veronica would call maître d’s of restaurants ahead of time to be sure that Randy’s favorite dish was on the menu. She also made sure that at benefits he’d be seated next to the most interesting person at the most interesting table.

The members of the sprawling Hearst family—William Randolph Hearst had five sons (Randy and his twin brother, David, who died in 1986, were the youngest), most of whom married several times—were concerned by how little they knew about Randy’s latest love. They also thought she was “too extreme.”

“She always dressed in black, with pins all over the place. We didn’t know whether to shake her hand or salute. The pulled-back hair, the jewels—it was all so over the top,” says Patti.

Bill Hearst, one of Randy’s older brothers, told him that he didn’t have to go so far as to actually marry Veronica. Randy responded by refusing to speak to Bill for several weeks. Maria Uribe, Veronica’s stepdaughter by her second husband, asked Patti how long Randy and Veronica had been dating. When told “two months,” Maria replied, “Well, then it’s too late.” Patti’s former bodyguard Bernard Shaw, whom she married in 1979, began assembling a dossier on Veronica’s past. He uncovered questions about her background, including a friendship with Michele Sindona, a charismatic Sicilian financier, who some believe had links to the Mafia. In 1980, Sindona was convicted of embezzling $45 million from the Franklin National Bank, and the Vatican lost millions through its dealings with him. His alleged partner, Roberto Calvi, was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge, in London, in 1982, his pants pockets filled with bricks and $13,000 in various currencies. Sindona died in March 1986 in prison, after drinking coffee laced with cyanide. According to a source, Veronica was deposed by a grand jury about him.

After Randy read the dossier, he confronted Veronica, who cried and explained she had been so young and naïve at the time of the friendship that she did not know who Sindona really was. Randy turned on the messenger—Bernie Shaw—for uncovering the information. After Randy and Veronica were married, Patti and Bernie and their children were rarely invited to visit.
The Lady in Black

Randy Hearst was a genial man of the old school who enjoyed country pursuits and a Dubonnet on the rocks before dinner. He had been married twice before, first for 44 years to Catherine Campbell, the mother of his five daughters. The marriage had come undone in 1982, some say as collateral damage from the infamous 1974 kidnapping of Patti by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Then 19, Patti, who had temporarily renamed herself Tania, was arrested 17 months after robbing a bank in San Francisco—an act, her lawyers would later claim, that was the result of Stockholm syndrome, in which hostages become sympathetic to their captors. Nevertheless, she served 22 months in jail in California. Soon after his divorce, Randy wed an Italian, Maria Scruggs, but the marriage crumbled within three years, in part because of Scruggs’s jealous tendencies, says Patti. There were stories of arguments at parties and fights over his preference for a certain airline known for its pretty stewardesses.

In 1987, Randy quietly married Veronica DeGruyter Beracasa de Uribe at Wyntoon, the 39,000-acre Hearst compound originally done up as a Bavarian village near McCloud, California. Patti learned of the event through Maria Scruggs, who had been told of it by Randy’s driver.

Randy and Veronica’s married life was not so quiet, however. Like all the Hearsts, Veronica now had access to two palatial properties: Wyntoon and the legendary Hearst Castle, spread out over 127 acres in San Simeon, California. Randy and Veronica threw grand parties there, flying guests in and serving sumptuous meals. At Wyntoon each guest was put in his own “guest castle.” One remembers Veronica’s flair and theatricality: “She had a lot of nerve, in a good way, a lot of fashion sense.… It was so out of the norm. I mean, it may not have been out of the norm in New York City or Paris, but once, at Wyntoon, she wore a black negligée, and it had a sheer black coat with big fluffy feathers around where your wrists are. She’s certainly somebody who you can’t take your eyes off of.” To outsiders Veronica may have been compelling, but the Hearsts found her unsettling.

She was not particularly sensitive to their customs or history. Once, she complained of the tussles she was having with her first husband, the well-liked Venezuelan banking heir Alfredo Beracasa, over their two children. Without a trace of irony, she told Patti and other Hearst family members, “You can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to have your child kidnapped.” Patti was dumbfounded. (Beracasa disputes Veronica’s characterization of “kidnapping.” He says the children went to stay with him on holiday.)

I remember Veronica when she was a teenager,” says Sotheby’s auctioneer Jamie Niven (son of actor David). “I saw her getting out of a taxi in front of the Palace hotel in Gstaad. She wore very high boots.” Columnist Taki Theodoracopulos also recalls Veronica at the Palace wearing a fur and taking tea with her mother, the Russian-born Princesse Fatmeh Khanoum, née Tatiana de Katchaloff.

In a 1991 New York magazine article Michael Gross, social chronicler and author of 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building, got to the bottom of many of the mysteries surrounding Veronica’s early life. “I am very discreet,” Veronica told Gross, “because, you see, the fact that there are some aristocratic veins in my family, I don’t want it mentioned, because in America, these things blow up like nothing.” According to the article, Veronica claimed on her 1982 marriage-license application that she had been born in Paris in 1949, though she has also said she was born in Monte Carlo in 1947. A document in Veronica’s possession suggests that her mother, born sometime around 1900 to Russian-Swedish parents, was indeed Russian nobility. In Veronica’s telling (as related by Gross), Tatiana fled St. Petersburg for London after her parents and family were murdered in the 1917 revolution. There she met a Persian official named Ala al-Saltaneh, better known by the name Mirza Mehdi Khan. She married him, became a Muslim, and was given the honorific title Princesse Fatmeh Khanoum. After the marriage ended she was widowed “several times.” She then moved to Belgium, where she married a wealthy Dutch grocery-store heir, Wilhelmus DeGruyter.

The family lived in Monte Carlo and then Switzerland, with Veronica being tutored by DeGruyter until his death. She confessed to New York that she was unsure if he was her biological father, before backtracking: “I have no doubt he was my father.” Two nephews of DeGruyter’s told Gross they suspected he was not, as did Alfredo Beracasa.

According to her first husband, Veronica thinks she may be half French but is not sure. Her mother, after all, led a nomadic life, surviving wars and worse. She was around 50 when Veronica was born. “My grandmother would tell me stories of escaping the Russian Revolution, of stuffing jewels in her shoes to survive,” says Veronica’s daughter, 32-year-old Fabiola Beracasa, a sweet-faced young woman who works for New York magazine and also in the antique-jewelry business. It was small wonder that with such an insecure background Veronica might, as Victoria Hearst puts it, “have a fear of poverty.… No matter how much she has, she might never feel content.”

In 1963, when she was in her late teens and still traveling with her mother, Veronica met Alfredo Beracasa, then a student in Lausanne. Dark-haired, with glittering eyes, beloved for his largesse and sense of fun (inherited by Fabiola), Alfredo was bowled over by the 19-year-old Veronica. He married her when she became pregnant with their son, Carlos, now 40. Veronica’s mother, Alfredo told New York, probably would have liked his origins to have been grander. “She would have preferred a Thurn und Taxis or a Furstenberg,” he recalled, but Alfredo did not care who she was. “I never worried about her background,” he says now. “Everyone I knew had furs and jewels; I didn’t ask how they had come by them.”

The couple moved to Caracas, Venezuela. Veronica soon brought her mother over and installed her in a nearby apartment. The Venezuelans did not quite know what to make of these glamorous new additions. “Veronica drove a white Rolls-Royce and had an enormous diamond—not great quality, but very big—on her hand,” says Hélène de Ludinghausen. Maruja Beracasa, Alfredo’s sister, remembers that her family frowned on Veronica’s extravagant shopping expeditions—and her father finally had to ask Veronica to stop sending him the bills for them. “My father said to her one day, ‘You are not married to me, you are married to my son.’”

While in Caracas, Veronica cemented her troublesome friendship with Michele Sindona. Maruja Beracasa recalls, “Veronica asked me even to receive him in my house, but I didn’t. I didn’t know who he was.” Beracasa believes, though, that Veronica was unaware of Sindona’s shady side: “I remember at the time [the allegations surfaced] she was very embarrassed.”

The Beracasas separated in 1977, when Fabiola was just a toddler. Alfredo says he gave Veronica and their children an apartment on Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan, and enough money to be comfortable, but “not enough to set them up for life.”

In 1983, Veronica married Andrés Uribe, one of Colombia’s richest men and the owner of the country’s largest cement business. They had met in 1979, when Uribe was in his 80s and still married, though separated. Alfredo was skeptical of her motives from the start: “Why was she with him instead of a man with a future?” he asks. In 1982, Uribe was suffering from brain cancer, which gave him double vision and put him in a wheelchair. His will, written in 1979, left his entire estate, including the family coffee and cement businesses, to his children.

According to Michael Gross, Veronica made a trip to Paris a few weeks after their wedding, only to return and find that Uribe had been whisked away to Bogotá by his children. He died there on March 1, sparking a two-year lawsuit for control of his estate. Initially, according to Maruja Beracasa, who was friends with the Uribes’ bankers, the Uribes offered Veronica $5 million, plus property, but she demanded more, saying the sum wouldn’t even cover her legal fees. In the settlement Veronica allegedly received $10 million in cash and Uribe’s stately Westchester house. She also got Fernando Botero paintings which had hung in their home. When asked to comment, Uribe’s eldest son, also named Andrés, declined, saying he had had no contact with Veronica since the estate was settled. He did, however, concede that Veronica had made his father very happy.

Ashton Hawkins, the former executive vice president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, describes Veronica fondly as a woman “not able to cope without a man.” Following Uribe’s death, she found new companions. The New York Post reported that she had been seen with William S. Paley, the founder and chairman of CBS. Yet Fabiola believes her mother’s reputation as a mantrap is undeserved. “My mother is very moral in most ways. I’ve never seen any man in my house, sleeping over, my whole life,” she says.

At the time of his marriage to Veronica, Randy was chairman of the multi-billion-dollar Hearst Corporation—which owns newspapers (the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer), magazines (Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar), book publishers (at the time, it owned William Morrow & Co. and Avon Books), and television stations, including half of the Lifetime Television Network and a 20 percent stake in ESPN—but, as Patti describes it, her father spent most of his days in his pajamas signing documents rather than actually running the media empire. In an attempt to get him to assume a more active role, Veronica bought him a briefcase and encouraged him to go to the office, according to Patti. Still, he didn’t abandon his chief loves: the outdoors and fishing. Meanwhile, Randy and Veronica bought the palatial apartment on Fifth Avenue as a wedding gift to themselves.

The paterfamilias, William Randolph Hearst, knew what it was like to go nearly bankrupt thanks to personal extravagance. In the 1930s, with the country in the grip of the Great Depression, he had refused to scale back his lavish spending. He sank millions of dollars into estates, yachts, and art collections. Hearst and his companies were then struggling under approximately $90 million in debt. On the brink of bankruptcy, Hearst was forced to yield control of his empire to a lawyer approved by his creditors, leading to a major re-structuring. Publications and real estate were sold off, as was much of Hearst’s art. The company limped along until World War II, when circulation and advertising revenues again increased.

As a result, William Randolph sought to ensure that his five sons—none of whom graduated from college—never got into similar trouble; he set up a family trust which paid dividends to them, but not to their spouses, and saw to it that they had no access to Hearst stock, now worth billions. He also stipulated that the corporation be run by 13 trustees—five family members and eight non–family members. Only with the passing of the last Hearst alive at the time of William Randolph’s death does the trust expire (the group now consists of 10 family members, according to Patti). However, there are two ways in which the money each Hearst receives from it could be greatly increased: if the Hearst Corporation is sold or taken public.

Though the Hearsts had limited power on the board, that didn’t mean Hearst executives could ignore them. Veronica, in particular, was full of ideas for the magazines. Their editorial overlord was, in the early 1990s, the dashing D. Claeys Bahrenburg, who had a reputation for squiring beautiful women. He was told that Veronica was his personal responsibility. According to a source, he was not pleased.

Still, working with Bahrenburg, Veronica may well have played a part in major changes at Hearst and at Harper’s Bazaar in particular. She was an aggressive agitator—gossip columns told of how, in the early 1990s, she courted prospective replacements for Bazaar’s 68-year-old editor in chief, Anthony Mazzola, whose age she publicly criticized. One of the potential recruits told New York’s Michael Gross that Veronica “was very well informed. She was aware of magazine politics.” Another Hearst editor called her “a very positive force on this company.” But a Bazaar employee felt Veronica conducted her efforts against Mazzola “atrociously.”

By 1992, Mazzola was out, replaced by Liz Tilberis. According to a former Hearst insider, the British-born editor “spun Veronica around her finger” with her finesse and easy charm, relieving Bahrenburg of his burden. Tilberis was said to have introduced Veronica to the Princess of Wales, but she also delicately set boundaries. According to a source, when in 1997 the Princess held an auction of her clothes at Christie’s, Veronica was not invited to the private cocktail party and dinner hosted by the late Nan Kempner for the Princess. She did, however, attend the preview gathering, where she ran into Patti and insisted, “Diana called me personally and told me I had to be here.”

In 1996, Randy allegedly met with a Disney executive to discuss selling Hearst to Disney. The rendezvous apparently took place behind the back of Frank Bennack Jr., Hearst’s C.E.O. Soon after, The New York Observer ran a front-page story showing a grinning Bennack toasting Randy at the annual Hearst Corporation gala in the Grand Ballroom of the Pierre hotel. But Randy had already been forced to retire and was replaced by his nephew George.


There were moments when at least some of the Hearst sisters found themselves feeling sorry for their stepmother. During one heated argument that took place in front of them, Patti recalls, her father told Veronica, “Shut your goddamn mouth.” But such pity was short-lived, not least because Patti felt their father had often been persuaded not to see them or to change plans at the last minute. Patti says she had to work hard to get Randy to see her children, Lydia, 24, and Gillian, 27.

In 2000, by the time Veronica and Randy finally closed on the purchase of Villa Venezia, Randy was dying from prostate cancer. Veronica had him on a strict diet, convinced this would prolong his life, according to Patti. A family friend recalls going to Wyntoon and watching Randy eat only a salad at dinner, “when it looked like he could use a steak.” A family doctor was concerned he wasn’t getting a nutritious diet. Patti recalls that Veronica also had hands laid on Randy by the faith healer Benny Hinn, and she told everyone how Randy had swooned and fallen back afterward (supposedly a good sign).

In mid-December, Patti got a call in the night that her father had been hospitalized. The next morning, she was telephoned by Bennack, who was at the hospital with Randy. “Why aren’t you here?” Bennack asked. Patti says she hadn’t realized she’d be allowed in. She and her husband drove in to New York from Connecticut and met Anne at the hospital. Randy was in a coma when they arrived. He died on December 18.

Anne and Victoria went to the reception Veronica gave following the funeral. The other daughters did not. Victoria, at least, felt Veronica had been good for their father in that she had introduced him to religion. “I really credit the Lord with using Veronica,” she says. “God used his third wife to get him saved. That’s why at his funeral, I mean, I had nothing but joy … because I knew where he was.”

Randy’s will stipulated that Veronica had to become an American citizen in order to receive her inheritance in a lump sum. She did so within six months, thus avoiding a reported $1.6 million in tax on her bequest of $4 million. If, then and there, she had sold Villa Venezia, and perhaps another property she had, on East 64th Street, she might have been debt-free, with a grand apartment in New York and a big house in Westchester. But no matter how hard Robert Littman urged her to sell it, she clung to Villa Venezia. “She thought she was a genius when it came to this stuff,” says Patti. “She always had some fantasy scheme.”

In June 2001, Patti was approached by real-estate investor Bren Simon in London. “Should I be worried about Veronica paying off my mortgage?” Simon asked. She and her husband, Melvin, the shopping-mall magnate, had generously lent Veronica $18.6 million as part of the $25 million mortgage. Veronica had made her payments, but Simon had heard rumors and was worried about how long this could last. Patti told her wryly she might well have cause for concern. Simon laughed, but in 2002 the Simons foreclosed, forcing Veronica to look for a new source of cash.

A series of financial institutions entered, and in November 2002 New Stream Secured Capital—then known as Porter Secured—replaced the Simons’ mortgage. Veronica sold her 64th Street property. Even so, her interest payments were vast. She had to refinance twice more before New Stream bought all her loans, and she used as collateral many personal possessions. In 2005 various real-estate agents were hired to sell Villa Venezia, but many were frustrated by what they saw as Veronica’s unrealistic expectations with regard to price, especially as the market began to soften in 2007. She occasionally asked Donald Trump for his advice on the real-estate market, but evidently ignored what he had to say.

That summer, Veronica inexplicably took the house off the market. Meanwhile, she still had to come up with more than $20 million for New Stream. Villa Venezia was finally bought by financier Franklin Haney in March. In July the Fifth Avenue apartment was sold for a reported $36.5 million.

Now, Veronica DeGruyter Beracasa de Uribe Hearst can start afresh, though perhaps not anywhere near so grandly as before. “Who knows, perhaps we will be sisters?” Patti Hearst says she has joked with Kimberly Rockefeller, David Rockefeller Jr.’s niece by marriage.

But those who have known Veronica a long time say it is dangerous to make jokes like that. “Never ever count her out,” says one former Hearst family member. “She is like a cat with nine lives.” V

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