Maybe he’s more used to a boardroom than a courtroom.
Billionaire investor Michael Fisch struggled to keep his cool as tensions boiled over at a sensational hearing in his divorce battle this week – earning a scolding from a Manhattan judge, who warned the fuming financier to calm down and let the lawyers talk.
“Sir, please just listen,” Justice Ariel Chesler told Fisch, 60, during the testy showdown in Manhattan Supreme Court, where the finance mogul and his estranged wife are hashing out how to divide their assets – including three mansions valued at nearly $100 million on the same ritzy Hamptons street.
The jurist’s rebukes came as lawyers for Fisch – whose New York-based private equity fund American Securities manages $7 billion in assets – and philanthropist and former model Laura Roberson-Fisch, 67, traded barbs and made explosive claims during a heated proceeding last Monday.
His estranged wife’s lawyer claimed Fish has been “looting art” from their home – and that he’d vowed to advance her only a “single dollar” of her inevitably massive divorce payout while the legal saga rages.
Fisch’s attorney, meanwhile, claimed that Laura – also an art patron and the daughter of wealthy Seattle developer Fred Roberson – recently “stalked” the well-heeled executive while it was his turn to stay at the East Hamptons mansion where the separated couple have been alternating weeks, after she spotted an unknown car in the driveway.
“She is clearly exhibiting obsessive behavior to stalk him and harass him,” said Fisch’s lawyer, Marilyn Chinitz of the firm Blank Rome. “It was his time at the home. She saw a car on the property, and she went on the property to stalk him and see, ‘Who’s there?’”
While the judge tried to make sense of Chinitz’s various allegations, the lawyer reassured him that “I want to stay on focus” – drawing a scathing response from Laura’s attorney Jonathan Wolfe.
“No she doesn’t,” Wolfe shot back. “She wants to make it as salacious as possible!”
But Wolfe lobbed several scandalous claims himself during the acrimonious proceeding – including that his client got a restraining order against Fisch “because he was looting art from the martial home.”
Insiders told Page Six in February that the couple – who were married for 33 years, share four children and did not sign a prenup – own a blue-chip art collection that could be worth more than $500 million.
“He won’t even agree not to bring women into the bed where she sleeps on alternating weeks!”
While Fisch’s exact net worth is unclear, a source told Page Six the finance mogul was worth “at least $10 billion.”
Yet Fisch has also “only agreed to one dollar of an advance of equitable distribution” in the case, Wolfe claimed during the Sept. 18 hearing – before hurling a more personal charge about Fisch’s sex life.
“He won’t even agree not to bring women into the bed where she sleeps on alternating weeks!” Wolfe exclaimed.
Shortly after the arguments began in the relatively drab lower Manhattan courtroom, a clearly frustrated Fisch, wearing a blue raincoat on top of a pinstriped black suit, leaned back in his chair, his left hand pressed firmly to his temple.
But by the end of the afternoon, he’d moved to the front of his chair, leaning forward with his arms pressing into the desk in front of him.
He repeatedly signaled his disgust by either waving his hands wildly or sharply exhaling while putting his face in his hands.
Fisch first spoke up in court using a relatively measured tone to accuse Laura’s lawyers of spinning a “web of lies” while insisting that he had turned over sufficient records of the couple’s joint financial assets.
But the investment magnate soon struggled to keep it together while describing Laura’s lawyers’ requests for documents, which he called “pure harassment.”
“They can tell you that we didn’t produce it, but it’s not true!” Fisch fumed, raising his voice. “I produced everything that’s reasonable, and I keep producing it!”
He then tried to cut Wolfe off as the attorney argued that Laura was entitled to receive all of Fisch’s bank and investment records – not just the accounts that Fisch’s camp deems marital.
But Fisch’s outburst drew a swift reproach from the judge.
“Sir, sir, please listen, please,” Chesler told Fisch.
Fisch also exaggeratedly mouthed “that’s not true” at times while his ex’s lawyers made their arguments, and at one point gestured furiously at the judge to signal his disapproval, causing Chesler to again tell him, “Sir, please, just listen.”
Laura Roberson-Fisch, meanwhile, kept calm throughout the hearing, frowning and folding her hands neatly on her lap.
The pair’s attorneys shouted over each other for most of the two-hour skirmish, causing Chesler to at one point put his hands up and say, “Everybody, please take a breath!”
“Counselors, one at a time, alright?” a court officer in the room added during one particularly chaotic moment.
“She is clearly exhibiting obsessive behavior to stalk him and harass him”
The judge at times appeared more like a couple’s therapist, urging both sides to “sit together” and find common ground.
Both sides were ostensibly in court to argue about what financial records Laura is entitled to as part of the divorce case – though Chesler admitted that though “I would like everyone to focus on these motions… things did go a little past that.”
Fisch’s lawyers claimed that Laura’s attorneys have embarked on a “fishing expedition” by subpoenaing details of his day-to-day spending even after the divorce case began.
Laura’s attorneys had sought vast records of expenses as large as Fisch’s private jet usage and as small as where he went to dinner, Chinitz said.
“Why would they care if he went out for dinner for Chinese food?” Chinitz said, adding later that, “They are chasing down a rabbit hole for no reason other than harassment.”
The judge eventually ruled from the bench that Fisch must turn over all of his bank and investment accounts, but that Laura is not entitled to know about all of his spending habits while the case rolls on.
Both sides declined to comment on their way out of court.
They are due back in court on November 15.
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