Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Crises Cited at Inheritance Trial

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Crises Cited at Inheritance Trial

Article excerpt

A series of illnesses, the loss of two children in the years before his death, and various psychological conditions made Robert Cohen, the late Hudson News patriarch, extremely vulnerable at a time when he was writing his wills and making large business transfers, a psychiatrist testified on Wednesday in the continuing inheritance battle.

Dr. Sanford Finkel continued to testify at a trial in Superior Court in Hackensack, in an effort to support a claim by Cohen's granddaughter, Samantha Perelman, who alleges that Cohen was manipulated by his son, James Cohen, into transferring most of the Hudson News retail business to him while cutting her out of the family inheritance.

The lawsuit by Perelman, who is the daughter of the Revlon chairman and billionaire Ronald Perelman, involves hundreds of millions of dollars derived from the Hudson News retail operation, which sold for $805 million in 2008.

James Cohen's attorneys say Robert Cohen was never manipulated and that all the transfers were made according to his intentions to pass the business to his only living son.

Finkel, however, said on Wednesday that Robert Cohen lost his son, Michael, in 1997, and while dealing with that tragedy, his wife, Harriet, developed Alzheimer's disease.

Robert Cohen himself began experiencing a sleep disorder shortly after his son's death, and he was later diagnosed with a neurological disease that impaired his ability to walk and talk to the point that he was completely paralyzed and needed 24-hour care, Finkel testifed.

In 2001, his daughter, Claudia Cohen -- a socialite and New York Post gossip columnist -- developed cancer and died six years later, Finkel said.

"What we see ... is one loss after another," Finkel said.

Claudia Cohen was married to Ronald Perelman in 1985 and divorced in 1994. Samantha Perelman was the only daughter from that marriage.

Mounting setbacks

With two of his three children dead and his wife suffering from Alzheimer's, Robert Cohen continued to struggle with a debilitating disease that left him demented, depressed and cognitively impaired, Finkel said.

"I don't recall seeing anybody that vulnerable and that impaired," Finkel said. …

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