Mommy Dearest

The fight between socialite Judi Wolf and her brother has turned into the mother of all family feuds.

Meanwhile, Judi and Zack were doing all right for themselves, too. Zack's Mexican connections had paid off; word was that if you wanted something done south of the border, you had to talk to Chayet. Between his law practice and assorted business interests, the couple was successful enough to own condominiums in upscale La Jolla, California, and Beaver Creek. They had 240 acres of investment property in Kiowa County; among their cars they counted a Mercedes and a Jaguar, both older models but still collector's items. And Judi continued to pull in $10,000 a year teaching part-time at Graland.

One day Judi received a telephone call from Estelle "Cissy" Wolf. Cissy and her husband, Marvin, had been inquiring about a property in California; the owners, with whom they were to meet, spoke only Spanish. They needed an interpreter, and a friend had suggested Judi, who taught at the school the Wolfs' children attended.

Despite the hundreds of millions Marvin had made in the oil business, he and Cissy lived a relatively quiet life. Cissy's friends knew her to be a sharp, intelligent woman who quietly donated large sums to charities but had made it clear to the society writers for the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post that she did not want her name appearing in the newspapers.

A Nebraska native, Marvin had graduated from the University of Colorado law school. But he and his brothers, Melvin and Irving, made their real fortune in the oil business in the 1960s and '70s, when the U.S. government practically gave away the rights to drill public lands. Before the oil lottery system--the subject of several criminal investigations--was discontinued, Wolf Energy Co. had made what some insiders say was close to $600 million. "Marvin could play hardball with the best of them," says a local attorney who worked for oil-boom clients.

Although it turned out the Wolfs didn't need an interpreter after all, Marvin began using Zack Chayet for business deals in Latin America. According to friends of Chayet, who now lives in California, every time Zack arrived back in Denver, Marvin would meet him at the airport with a new mission.

"Zack was happy," recalls one friend. "This multi-millionaire was throwing him all this business."

But when Zack returned home from one more business trip, his friend says, it was Judi who met him at the airport. She wanted a divorce, she told her husband. She was going to marry Zack's patron, Marvin Wolf.

John Milstein says his family was well aware of Judi's affair with Marvin. "He was buying her furs and things," John adds. His straitlaced parents, who had never really liked Chayet, did not approve of this man, either. But Judi was adamant.

She filed for divorce on June 14, 1982, after twenty years of marriage. She was 40, Zack was 45, and Marvin was 50. The divorce became final on April 22, 1983--three days after Marvin's divorce from Cissy was granted. According to one inside source, Cissy got more than $100 million in the settlement deal.

Judi and Marvin were married on September 1, 1983. Soon after, Zack Chayet went back to court--he was represented by Phil Lowery, a local attorney with his own reputation for flamboyance--and asked the judge to reduce his obligation to pay for his sons' education expenses. Marvin Wolf had stolen his wife; he could pay for the kids' schools.

Lowery argued that his client's finances had decreased to a level that made the required payments "unconscionable." Meanwhile, he said, Judi had married into "incredible sums of money...multi-millions."

But Judi's lawyer countered that while his client had married Marvin Wolf, that didn't necessarily make her any richer. Although he refused to divulge details of a prenuptial agreement Judi had signed before her second wedding, her lawyer noted that it "specifically disclaims any obligation by Marvin Wolf to support Chayet's children and in no way improves [Judi's] financial condition so long as she is married to Marvin Wolf."

Lowery demanded to see Marvin and Cissy Wolfs' divorce file, but it had been sealed by the court. He subpoenaed Marvin and attempted to exact information about his finances. During a deposition, Wolf's lawyer started to object, but Wolf waved him off. He'd handle this himself.

"All he's trying to do is find out if I can support his client's children. That's all," Wolf said. But if Lowery thought he had an opening, he was quickly disappointed. "I can tell you I can, Mr. Lowery, with no problem, if that's what you are searching for," Wolf continued. "I suggest your client support his own children and we won't have to worry about it."

Wolf was not about to pick up someone else's tab. He once sued his own son over a business deal. That time, he lost.

John Milstein returned to Denver in 1979 after graduating from Harvard Law School. He'd attended the school at his father's insistence, but he had no desire to practice law. Instead, John worked for his parents and also put together business deals for friends he'd met back East who were now on Wall Street or with big banks. His parents bought a condominium for him to live in.

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