Donald Bren doesn't owe two adult children any more money, jury rules

Billionaire Donald L. Bren might have lost some privacy, but he won't be losing any more of his fortune.

A Los Angeles jury decided Thursday that the Irvine Co. chairman does not owe his two adult children any more money. Christie Bren, 22, and David Bren, 18, were seeking retroactive child support of $400,000 a month each. They contended that out-of-court payments Bren made to their mother were well below what would have been awarded by a family court.

The long-awaited trial put the intensely private real estate developer in an awkward position. He was forced to look on as his children, his former girlfriend and even his own attorneys drudged up uncomfortable details about his fortune and private life.

He was described as a virtually absentee father who never attended school events, parent-teacher meetings or even the children's births. He was grilled about love notes and sleepovers. His former girlfriend, Jennifer McKay Gold, described in detail his contraception preferences.

Many observers had expected Bren to settle and thus avoid the media attention that would come with a trial, but his attorneys said they were confident in their chances. The jury took less than three hours to decide 9 to 3 in Bren's favor.

The 78-year-old was not there for the verdict, but his personal attorney, Jon Freund, welcomed the decision with a fist pump.

"Mr. Bren is pleased that the jury listened carefully to both sides and found for him," Freund said. "He wishes the very best for the adult children."

Bren has an estimated net worth of $12 billion and is 16th in Forbes magazine's ranking of the 400 richest Americans.

Freund said Bren will continue paying for the children's education until the age of 25, and that he's already provided more than $9 million in support.

Christie Bren locked arms with her mother and stared blankly as the jury decided against her. Her brother, David Bren, turned red.

"This is not over," Gold said on her way out. "My children are doing the right thing, which is to stand up for themselves."

A family companion shielded them from photographers as they left the downtown courthouse.

Their attorney, Hillel Chodos, said they will appeal. Chodos said much of what they had hoped to present to a jury — mention of Bren's other children, photos, love notes — was ruled as inadmissible.

Despite restrictions, the roughly two-week trial did delve into Bren's personal life. In one notable exchange, Bren testified he never loved Gold.

"Did you ever tell Jennifer you loved her?" Chodos asked him.

"No, sir," Bren replied.

"Are you sure?" Chodos asked.

"I'm sure," Bren said.

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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