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NAMES IN THE NEWS : Gov. Wilder, Patricia Kluge Link

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

Gov. L. Douglas Wilder says he is nothing more than friends with Patricia Kluge despite published reports that he spent two recent weekends with the estranged wife of John Kluge, the richest man in the country.

A source at Kluges’ Albemarle Farms estate told the Roanoke Times & World-News that Patricia Kluge, 41, spent Memorial Day weekend with Wilder, who has been divorced for more than 10 years, at Camp Pendleton near Virginia Beach.

The same source also said she spent a four-day weekend with him in Nantucket, Mass., on June 7-10.

“We’re friends,” Wilder, 59, said before a speech in Hot Springs Thursday. “Both of the Kluges are friends and that is it.”

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Patricia and John Kluge cited irreconcilable differences when they separated about two months ago after nine years of marriage. They have a 6-year-old son.

John Kluge, who contributed $200,000 to Wilder’s successful bid to become the nation’s first black elected governor, is listed by Forbes magazine as America’s wealthiest man, worth an estimated $5.2 billion. As part of their settlement, John Kluge gave Patricia the Charlottesville mansion and the annual interest from $1 billion.

Candace Campbell, Patricia Kluge’s spokeswoman, acknowledged that “rumors are rampant” about the governor and her client, who has made at least one unannounced visit to Wilder at his office.

Campbell said Patricia Kluge considers Wilder a “close friend.”

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