Lorna Wendt, whose pathbreaking divorce battle for a fair share of her family’s assets jolted C suites across the country, died on February 4, 2016. (The New York Times obituary is here.) I wrote about Lorna’s battle in On Your Case as an admirer of her principled stance in support of corporate wives, a job category we hear less about as women make professional progress.
Lorna, who was married for more than 30 years to General Electric Gary Wendt, served as his corporate wife, running their home and entertaining his colleagues as he moved up the career ladder. When Gary decided to divorce Lorna, he offered her about $10 million. Lorna, arguing that her contribution to Gary’s success meant she deserved an even split of the family’s wealth, rejected his offer and went to court. It took a Connecticut judge, deciding what lawyers call a case of first impression, a 519 page opinion to explain why he thought Lorna deserved about $20 million. Lorna appealed the decision, and lost, but the impact of her fight was profound: she shattered an unwritten rule, at least in Connecticut, a state filled with high net worth couples. The rule, actually called “enough is enough,” capped divorce awards for long-married housewives in high-asset marriages, even if their husbands retained vast sums.
Following the case, which captured national attention and surely changed how corporate executives planned for divorce, Lorna advocated for women in similar situations. She was a firm believer in prenups (as am I).