The heirs of media baron William Randolph Hearst, the controversial tycoon whose newspaper empire covered America from coast to coast; who built San Simeon, the breathtaking castle in California that is now the largest tourist attraction in the state; who lived for decades with silent film star Marian Davies, the blonde bombshell of her time, and whose life was immortalized in the film “Citizen Kane,” are in the middle of a serious family feud over their trust fund, which is worth up to $60 billion. William Hearst, a family cousin who lives in San Francisco, went to court in Los Angeles Thursday to ask a probate judge to unseal the family trust and give a full public accounting of its assets. Patricia Hearst-Shaw, Victoria Hearst and Catherine Hearst, three of the daughters of the late media mogul Randolph Apperson Hearst, one of old W.R.H.’s five sons, went to court with their cousin to support his case. 

The trust was supposedly sealed “temporarily” 30 years ago when Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Fearful of other members of the family being victimized, the trust was instituted to protect the family’s true wealth from being known to other extremist groups and criminal elements. Next week, at another closed and secret hearing, the court will convene and it is expected by some that the judge will rule that no trust or trustees are beyond the accountability and jurisdiction of the courts and that the Hearst Trust assets will have to be explained to the family and the public. (In some quarters of the family, this trust is referred to as the Hearst Secret Trust.)

The big problem certain members of the family have with the trustees, who number 13, of which only five are family members, is that not only can they not get an accounting of the trust’s actual value but that the trustees won’t tell them exactly what they pay themselves or what perks they receive. As the grandchildren and great-grandchildren are the legitimate heirs, they feel they have a right to know the answers to these questions about their money and how it’s being spent. They say the trustees not only refuse to answer these questions but say that by asking them, these heirs put themselves in danger of being disinherited — their interpretation of William Randolph Hearst’s will. It’s not just about the money, friends, it’s Just About The Money. Sixty billion dollars being nothing to sneeze at.

This story first appeared in the April 22, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

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Sid Bass, the Fort Worth billionaire, for whom oil flows and investments have been known to flourish, and his unbelievably chic wife, Mercedes, wearing a beige lace Oscar de la Renta confection, came to town (where they keep a golden boisserie-filled apartment) to host the American Academy in Rome’s annual dinner at Cipriani. Mercedes and Sid smilingly greeted their faithful flock, who flock to this party every year where culture is the byword and the furthering of it is key. This year’s tribute to the Academy celebrated its 100th anniversary and the visionary American founders of this beautifully picturesque retreat nestling on a Roman hill where talented students and promising scholars have their special artistic and intellectual talents nurtured. This century-old center was incorporated by an act of Congress.

These founding visionaries included such American titans, magnificent collectors and promulgators of all aspects of culture as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, Charles Follen McKim, J. Pierpont Morgan, his son, J. Pierpont Morgan Jr., John D. Rockefeller Jr., William K. Vanderbilt and Henry Walters. Descendants of these powerful Americans who gloried in the pursuit of learning were presented with the AAR Centennial Medals, and they all accepted with pride and — the heavens be praised — short speeches. (Andrew Carnegie’s descendants responded with a simple “Thank you,” which went over big with guests who are subjected to windiness on many an award night and oft.)

It was a beautiful party and, of course, much money was paid, which was the idea. The orchestra played the kind of music that keeps your skull intact and the tables were just as beautifully decorated as Mercedes Bass wanted them to be. Adele Chatfield-Taylor, AAR’s striking president, wore a navy blue Mary McFadden. Michael Sovern, the chairman of AAR, and the main speaker, architect David Childs, were splendid in their dinner jackets. Among the guests were Mary McFadden herself; Patricia Patterson; Ellen and James Polshek; Jamie Niven; Frederick Melhado; such Rockefellers as Tara, Michael and David Rockefeller Jr.; Beatrice Stern; Lauren and John Veronis; the Joseph Volpes; Jayne Wrightsman; Dr. Paul LeClerc and Dr. Judith Ginsberg; Duane Hampton; Bette-Anne and Charles Gwathmey; Harry Cushing; Mrs. Henry Clay Frick II; Annette and Oscar de la Renta; Nancy and Henry Kissinger; Boaz Mazor; Barbara Goldsmith; Michael Graves; Everett Fahy, and on and on into the night.

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Now that Mariah Carey has topped the charts with her new album, she is ready to move on to bigger things. Not only is she designing her own line of diamond jewelry and accessories called “Automatic Princess,” but she’s in talks about taking on a role as a Bond girl in the new 007 film remake of “Casino Royale,” set to come out in 2006. After “Glitter,” there are very few bated breaths out there.

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The world is about to see exactly what Demi Moore sees in Ashton Kutcher — besides his brain — when his new movie “A Lot Like Love” opens this weekend featuring the hunk’s first nude scene. When asked if it was hard to take off all his clothes, Ashton replied, “I like being nude, so for me it wasn’t all that tough.” He is so keen on this new romantic comedy, which co-stars Amanda Peet, that he says, “If we are the number-one movie in America, I will do a Calvin Klein underwear campaign.” I can wait if you can.

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Doubles, the private club in the Sherry Netherland, will celebrate its 29th anniversary on May 5 with a black-tie gala called “Bubbles at Doubles.” Peter Duchin will play for many of the members, which they hope will include Nan Kempner, Pat Buckley, Jamee and Peter Gregory, Karen and Richard LeFrak, Cynthia and Dan Lufkin, Dina Merrill and, naturally, the club’s guiding light, Wendy Carduner. Happy Birthday!

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