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« TMZ: Boston Globe, Gloria Allred Trying to Unseal Court Records In Someone Else's Divorce; Got Tip Record Contains "Juicy Information" About Romney | Main | Top Headline Comments 10-24-12 »
October 24, 2012

The Stemberg Settlement Saga Celebrates Its Silver Anniversary, By The Usual Custom of Dragging Mitt Romney Into It

This is an update to the last post. TMZ is reporting Gloria Allred's supposed October Surprise is just a relitigation of the Stemberg divorce settlement from 1986 (yes, the year the Mets won the World Series, that long ago) at which Romney testified.

Read this. It's from a Boston Herald opinion piece (well, it sure looks like opinion) that's no longer available. You can find it by searching on the Boston Herald site for "Maureen Sullivan Stemberg." It's the fourth article down.

From 2006:

Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, ex-wife of Staples founder, sits in her $5,200 a month, 14th-floor, concierge-at-the-door, elegantly furnished Back Bay apartment and tells you she’s broke. She can’t work. She can’t afford a car, her medications, her rent, even the family springer spaniel, J.J., who she just gave away.

She produces doctors notes detailing medical woes: possible lupus, bouts of pneumonia requiring hospitalizations, a history of cancer, petit mal seizures, plus recommendations for thrice weekly psychotherapy and psychiatry. She says her insurance won’t cover mental health care.

“I’m going to be out on the street,” says Sullivan Stemberg, a tiny, 50-ish woman who alternates between an overanxious recitation of worries, and tears. “I’ve had a change of circumstances.”

And now she wants her ex-husband, Tom Stemberg, whose worth has been estimated at upwards of $150 million, to dramatically increase his support, guarantee health insurance forever and buy her another home in a concierge building. “I’m sicker and thinner every day,” she says. “I’m not asking for anything more than he did for his other wife and girlfriend.”

Now, even in 2006 Romney was planning a presidential bid, so the Herald notes the "political" angle:

Tom Stemberg, meanwhile, hailed as an entrepreneurial genius, has just gone through a second divorce and is now living with the mother of his newest child. His paternal shortcomings are evident in a letter he wrote to his then-12-year-old son with Sullivan Stemberg. “It will not be possible for you to be part of our family in the foreseeable future” because of the child’s supposed misbehavior during their divorce, he wrote, blaming the child for taking sides between parents and creating unbearable hassles, such as monthly court appearances.

Enter a political angle: That same child, the same year - 1996 - approached Mitt Romney, an early Staples money man, during a chance vacation meeting. The Wall Street Journal and Sullivan Stemberg herself say her son asked Romney for an appointment to speak about his mother’s problems, financial and otherwise.

Apparently this did not cause Mitt Romney alarm. In April, our would-be president began an op-ed article, also for the Journal, this way: “Only weeks after I was elected governor, Tom Stemberg told me that if you really want to help people, find a way to get everyone health insurance,” Romney wrote. When Romney expressed doubts, he said, Stemberg insisted, “You can find a way.”

Long story short, although Maureen Sullivan Stemberg had a pretty big settlement, in normal human terms, it wasn't a mega-settlement, and her ex-husband wound up mega-rich. And she seems to have spent a lot of it on contesting the settlement itself. And then she was hit with medical problems.

So, she wants more money.

So the 2006 version of this story was put out, it seems, to pressure Romney to pressure Stemberg to open his wallet and voluntarily agree to increase Sullivan Stemberg's support.

I mean, that is the whole point of the Herald article. It concluded:

The story is what a rich, local superstar has done, or not done, for the mother of his son who can’t support herself anymore. It’s hard for mere mortals to relate to this, I know. Still, despite the awfulness on both sides, he should give her the money.

Until then, here’s hoping Romney and other local luminaries skip the Stemberg accolades. The personal is political here, and the personal reeks.

She'd been arguing for years -- apparently "shopping her story" around -- that her husband should increase his upkeep payments to her.

But this divorce is now 25 years old.

I see the 2006 story as essentially arguing the former Mrs. Stemberg should be paid more, because, Romney.

Should a president be friends with such a heartless skinflint?, the argument seems to go.

And, Should a president be friends with someone who turns away his own son?

That last one is bad... for Stemberg. I don't really see the Romney angle, except in extremely contrived fashion.

I do not see any reason to think the six-years-later version of the story is much different.

I note there were no prior allegations of "juicy stuff" about Romney. Seems to me the Former Mrs. Stemberg's just relitigates the terms of her divorce every few years.

I'm not taking any position on the case of Stemberg v. Stemberg. I'm just asking what the hell on earth this has to do with Mitt Romney, except that he is -- as he was in 2006 -- a convenient catspaw.

It Also Seems To Me... That this is not a political story. It seems to me that the Romney Card has been played simply in hopes of pressuring Romney into pressuring Stemberg.

That's how it was played in 2006.

Again, I have no idea if the Former Mrs. Stemberg "deserves" more money or whatever.

I know the law seems pretty clear that she's not legally entitled to more. The settlement has been litigated (apparently more than once) and has been on the books for 25 years.

Hence, a series of non-legal arguments about it.

And I think the devious Ms. Allred is playing the media (and Drudge) for fools in what is simply a straight money play.

Stoke up interest by suggesting this is a ROMNEY SCANDAL and hope that that serves to open the vault.

And I Repeat... This is 25 year old divorce.

Are there really "juicy allegations" about a third party in the divorce papers?

Still juicy 25 years later?

Juicy allegations that apparently haven't been previously known?

Juicy allegations usually get passed around a spell. That's what makes them juicy.

This is Gloria Allred's Second Finest Moment. Here's her finest.

Theory 2: A reader suggests maybe Allred will claim that Romney testified falsely about the value of Stemberg's worth, or the shares he was offering her in the settlement.

First, you have to understand that a big part of the settlement was Staples shares. Maureen Sullivan Stemberg apparently sold half of these before the company went public... which was a big mistake, because the share value soared. Per TMZ:

According to an article in the Boston Globe in 2005, Maureen received nearly 500,000 shares of Staples stock in the divorce ... but sold half her shares before the company went public.

So her argument might be that Romney was testifying about the value or potential value of the stocks and gave a low valuation which caused her to sell and thus deprived her of millions.... and so pay me.

But if Romney was trying to help his friend, he would have offered a high valuation of the stock, because then Stemberg can give her less. He wouldn't claim the stocks are worth less than he knows they are -- that would just mean Stemberg has to give her more stock to make the same payoff.

This just seems to be a very bad (as it turns out) decision by the Former Mrs. Stemberg.

And, besides, Romney wasn't acting as her financial adviser, even if he did guestimate the value of the stocks. He would have been providing a valuation for the trier of fact (the jury or judge), not for Mrs. Stemberg to take as some kind of financial advice for her to act upon.

If that's the avenue of the complaint: It's not juicy and it doesn't even make any sense. "Lowballing" the value of the stocks just means that Stemberg has to give her more of it, which I'm pretty sure is not the outcome he sought.

Someone Posting as "Maureen Stemberg" on HuffPo... ...who claims to have once been married to Romney's "Partner in Crime, Mr. Staples," says she likes Obama a whole heck of a lot and Mormons not a bit.

Gloria's History of Late Election-Season Shakedowns. "Blackmail," Greta alleged.

Well, it sure does look like a shakedown. These cases are brought at a particularly sensitive time because they have such little merit that only the pressurized atmosphere of a political campaign can invest these nuisance shakedowns with Cash Money Settlement Value.



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posted by Ace at 12:04 AM

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