NEW YORK — The bulk of Geoffrey Beene’s estimated $208.9 million estate may end up going to the dogs, some cats and other animals.
Beene’s last will and testament and other documents filed with the state of New York after his death are shedding more light on the life of a man who, with Donald Brooks and Bill Blass, was a driving force behind the growth of American fashion.
Beene directed that the proceeds from his remaining assets — estimated at more than $205 million after bequeathing $3.4 million to employees, friends and family members — be used to establish a charitable foundation whose directors would, in turn, make contributions to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Medical Center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Beene’s certificate of death provided its own surprise, revealing that the fashion icon had been born Aug. 20, 1924, in Haynesville, La., making him 80 years of age rather than the 77 that was widely reported.
Beene died at 10:45 a.m. on Sept. 28 in his Upper East Side town house. The cause of death was complications from pneumonia, said Helen O’Hagan, a friend and the former vice president of corporate public relations at Saks Fifth Avenue.
The death certificate stated that he had attended some college without attaining a degree, a reference to the three years Beene spent as a pre-med student at Tulane University. The certificate also indicated that he had never served in the military and never married. The words “Fashion Designer” were listed in a box asking for the deceased’s usual occupation. Beene’s remains were cremated at the Garden State Crematory in North Bergen, N.J., on Oct. 1.
An affidavit of heirship filed by Beene’s accountant, Max Eisikovic, who said he had known the designer for six years, supported the 1924 birth date. It also noted that Beene had been born Samuel A. Bozeman Jr., named after his father. “To the best of my knowledge, he adopted the name Geoffrey Beene in the 1950s,” Eisikovic said, according to his affidavit. Perhaps not so coincidently, Beene arrived in New York in 1950, after having apprenticed with a local tailor while studying fashion at the L’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale in Paris.
This story first appeared in the January 6, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Barbara Wellman of Conroe, Tex., Beene’s sister and only sibling, was the largest individual beneficiary. According to the will, Beene bequeathed his “wearing apparel, jewelry, motor vehicles, any household furniture and household effects not disposed of,” and his insurance policies to Wellman, who also received $1 million.
Estate documents revealed that most of Beene’s assets rested in stock of the company bearing his name. Beene held $160 million in Geoffrey Beene Inc. stock at the time of his death. Another $34.3 million was held in Treasury Bills, with $472,973.63 in cash in an account with J.P. Morgan Chase.
Beene’s cooperative apartment on East 69th Street was estimated to be valued at $1.5 million, while his Long Island country home was estimated to be worth $5 million. Based on his instructions in the will, it can be inferred that the Long Island house was a special place for Beene.
After his cremation, Beene directed his ashes to be “scattered in front of the entrance to the greenhouse at my home located at Shutter Lane, Oyster Bay Cove…to the right of the arborvitae.”
Beene also gave specific instructions as to how a memorial service should be conducted. “I wish no formal funeral service; rather, as soon as practicable, I request that my beneficiaries gather at a suitably tasteful restaurant…for a great dinner party. I desire such event to be marked by joyful attitudes to the exclusion of any mourning,” said Beene, adding that the dinner would be paid for by the proceeds from the sale of his estate.