Battlin' Boeskys

updated 05/31/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/31/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

THESE DAYS ITS NOT BROADWAY BUT New York Stale Supreme Court in lower Manhattan that offers some of the liveliest theater in the Big Apple. In the courtroom across the street from the one in which Woody and Mia staged the Mother of All Custody Battles, disgraced financier Ivan Boesky and his ex-wife, Seema, are engaged in their own high-stakes drama. Boesky, 56, once one of the richest men in the world, with a fortune estimated at $200 million, now claims he's impoverished—and is suing his former wife for $20,000 a week alimony and half her $100 million fortune. Despite their sartorial elegance—he shows up in expensive black suits, crisp white shirts and silk ties; she favors color-coordinated designer outfits accented with matching pumps and alligator briefcases—the battle is bare-knuckle nasty. As Seema told a reporter, "He figures he'll be able to get his hands on my money because he's trusting that I can't fight dirty. Or, rather, that I won't. Well, he's wrong."

Indeed, Seema, 53, tearfully told the court how, after Ivan pleaded guilty in 1986 to insider trading and spent 22 months in prison, she "went from being someone who was socially acceptable and who felt proud of who she was, to a social outcast." A co-op apartment building rejected her, charities returned her checks. Worse, the mother of four who lives on an estate in Westchester County says she had to watch her children suffer for her ex's misdeeds: "When my son collected door-to-door for an environmental fund, a neighbor told him, 'Get off my property, you scum.' " Meanwhile, Seema complains, pointing an accusing finger at Boesky, "he's fine.... I'm the one left holding the bag, an innocent party who's never done anything."

Boesky, who coined the phrase "Greed is good," argues that he made his wife "rich beyond her imagination," through both his legal and illegal schemes. On the stand, Ivan proved icy, charming and a bit fuzzy as to details. He admitted he and Seema shared "a lavish lifestyle with a very substantial amount of materiality." But when asked how many homes he and his wife had amassed during their 30-year marriage, he replied vaguely, "There was the Palm Beach place, New York, Paris, the South of France.... I think there was one more, but I can't remember." A surprising memory lapse, considering that Boesky recalled complex stock deals well enough to help the Feds convict junk-bond king Michael Milken and several others of securities fraud.

As for Boesky, he may be down, but he's not exactly out—not even by his own Gordon Gekko-like standards. Though he paid $100 million in fines to the government after his conviction, he now lives in a $2.3 million hacienda in La Jolla, Calif., owned by his ex-wife. And he collects $15,000 a month from Seema, in accordance with a court order following their divorce on March 23.

His claim that he made her rich, say her lawyers, is ridiculous. As the daughter of Ben Silberstein, the late real estate mogul and owner of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Seema was wealthy to begin with. Furthermore, she claims, Boesky's illegal activities have made her $100 million the target of several lawsuits totaling more than $250 million. If her ex-husband's suit succeeds, says Edward Brodsky, one of Seema's attorneys, "then Ivan Boesky has found a new way to commit a crime."

MARILYN ACHIRON
MARY HUZINEC in New York City

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