A year on from the tragic suicide of her former lover, Liz Hurley has been doing what any loving mother would: gently trying to guide her only son through the conflicting emotions of losing the father he was just beginning to get to know.
Although their relationship had been almost non-existent for most of Damian’s life, in the weeks before Steve Bing’s death the multi-millionaire businessman had made tentative steps towards establishing a father-son bond, calling him for the first time on his 18th birthday.
Who knows where that first rapprochement might have led? The one solace in the tragedy was that Bing died thinking that his two children — Damian and older half-sister Kira — would be financially secure. He had recently won a court battle, overturning his own father’s attempt to exclude them both from family trust funds believed to be worth up to a billion dollars (£725 million).
During an emotionally turbulent year, Hurley (R) has maintained a dignified silence, but so appalled is she by the ‘callous’ treatment of her son (L) by his own grandfather that she gave a statement to the Mail yesterday
Taken from Lisa Kerkorian open Facebook page: Lisa Bonder Kerkorian had a daughter Kira with the late billionaire Steve Bing
Yet today we can exclusively reveal that Damian won’t receive a penny, after his grandfather succeeded in appealing the decision. Instead, the fortune will be split between the two children of Steve’s sister Mary, who crucially, unlike their cousins, were born in wedlock.
It is a betrayal that has horrified and devastated Liz Hurley, not just that Damian has been deprived of a share that could have reached $250 million (around £180 million) but also that he has been effectively disowned by his father’s family.
During an emotionally turbulent year, Hurley has maintained a dignified silence, but so appalled is she by the ‘callous’ treatment of her son by his own grandfather that she gave a statement to the Mail yesterday.
‘When Stephen took his own life, he died thinking his children were going to be taken care of,’ she says. ‘What Stephen wanted has now been callously reversed. I know Stephen would have been devastated.’
Kira’s mother, Lisa Bonder, has also been left reeling. She told the Mail this week: ‘As a mum, I wonder why on earth this had to happen. Why make two innocent kids into victims?’
For many years, Bing had refused to publicly acknowledge 19-year-old son Damian, or Kira, 23. He ruthlessly made a will while Liz was pregnant with Damian, ensuring neither would inherit.
Yet in the final years of his life Bing had tried to build bridges, only for his tragic death to unfold against a backdrop of labyrinthine legal action: in March 2019, Steve’s father, the billionaire Dr Peter Bing, went to court to cut Damian and Kira out of the ‘grandchildren trusts’ he had set up nearly 40 years earlier, on the basis they were both born out of wedlock.
It led Liz and Lisa to join forces to contest his application and, in July 2019, a judge ruled that both Damian and Kira were entitled to a slice of the family fortune. But their victory was short-lived.
Dr Bing, now 90, appealed that decision and last October, four months after his son’s death, a judge ruled that he could distribute the trust as he saw fit.
‘Damian’s grandfather, Peter Bing, had attempted to have Stephen’s children, including Damian, disregarded as his grandchildren in the irrevocable trust he had previously set up,’ says Hurley. ‘Stephen fought very hard in his last year to have his children recognised and repeatedly told me how incredibly important this was to him.
‘He was happy beyond belief that the trial verdict ruled that Damian was to be treated like his sister’s children as far as the trust was concerned. I am just relieved that Stephen will never know that Damian’s relatives — Stephen’s father and the family of his sister Mary — were ultimately successful in their appeal against the original trial verdict.’
Lisa Bonder agrees. ‘It’s been horrible — forget about the actual legality of it all: this is their grandfather saying: “You don’t count, and I don’t want you to be a part of our lives because your mum was not married to my son.”
‘Damian and Kira have been disinherited from the Bing family trust. There’s no recourse, they can’t go back. They lost. It’s been very painful for them and left a family void for Damian and Kira to deal with.
‘I can tell you Steve loved his children and regretted not being there for them during his lifelong struggle with drug addiction. He expressed remorse to me for not being a father to them and he lived with the guilt of that.’
After Bing’s death, Liz made a point of paying tribute to him as a ‘sweet, kind man’.
As this paper revealed last year, court documents from the inheritance battle showed that Bing had, in fact, been supporting his son financially from birth, although Liz raised Damian for the most part as a single mother.
Latterly, the pair have lived together in a £6 million country estate in Herefordshire.
Textile heir Arun Nayar, Liz’s husband from 2007 to 2011 played a paternal role in young Damian’s life but the chance to get to know his birth father properly would have been a huge boost.
‘That’s one of the reasons this story is so tragic,’ Lisa says. ‘Here’s a man that I think really felt empty most of his life, he found himself in a very lonely place and he reached out to Kira and Damian — to see if he could develop a relationship. But in the end, everything was too much for him.’
Lisa, 55, a former professional tennis player, lives in Florida with Kalla and Oliver, her teenage children with her recent long-term partner Michael Gluckman. She also has a 32-year-old son, Taylor.
Kira, a keen equestrian, has just graduated from UCLA and is about to take a master’s degree in non‑profit leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.
Bing’s fortune descends largely from his developer grandfather Leo’s property empire built in early 1920s New York. Steve inherited approximately $600 million (£460 million) when he was just 18, the launch pad for a life lived out in the gossip columns. A lavish spender, he set up the film company Shangri-La Entertainment, which enjoyed modest success with the film Polar Express, and invested in real estate. He was linked to a string of beauties over the years, including Naomi Campbell, Uma Thurman, Sharon Stone and Farrah Fawcett.
He met Lisa in Los Angeles in the late 1990s, the start of a six-month fling she cut short because of his hedonistic lifestyle. ‘He was living a life I didn’t want to participate in, so he and I went our separate ways very early on,’ she says.
Unaware she was already pregnant with Kira when they parted, she then reconciled with the billionaire businessmen Kirk Kerkorian, with whom she had previously been involved.
The pair had a shortlived marriage in 1999, but Kirk nonetheless adopted Kira and continued to support her even when, in 2004, a DNA test confirmed that Steve was Kira’s biological father.
But Bing refused to acknowledge his parentage, which had been confirmed when a private detective took used dental floss from his discarded waste bin.
His life had already become complicated: by then, Liz Hurley had given birth to his son Damian. She had an 18-month relationship with Bing, but her own pregnancy announcement in 2001 had been met with a similarly chilly dismissal by her former lover, who claimed they had not been in an exclusive relationship.
He wrote a will around the time Liz was three months’ pregnant in which he disinherited both Kira and Liz’s unborn baby, stating explicitly that it was ‘not his intention’ to provide for either this child — meaning Damian — or any child ‘now living or hereafter born’. It was, Lisa says now, the final rubber-stamp of rejection for both.
Lisa believes that it is no coincidence that it was only after Kirk Kerkorian’s death aged 98 in 2015 that Bing decided to contact Kira to ask her if she would be willing to meet with him.
‘Kira was interested,’ says Lisa. ‘I think she saw it as an opportunity to make amends, to heal the past and possibly get to know her grandparents and her cousins from Steve’s sister Mary.’
Lisa also believes that, with his own finances by then what she calls ‘in crisis’, Bing wanted to ensure that Damian and Kira were provided for.
‘Steve essentially had blown through his entire fortune, so he was not doing well financially,’ she says. The cushion, however, was the existence of six independent trusts, set up by Peter Bing in 1980, to provide for future grandchildren.
‘These were six separate trusts with separate tax benefits, the only identifying language determining who the beneficiary was of each trust being birth order because there were no grandchildren born in 1980,’ says Lisa. ‘If there were less than six grandchildren, then the remaining trusts would be split equally.’
Peter Bing would later argue that the use of the word ‘grandchild’ was ambiguous and could only apply to those born in wedlock — those of Steve’s sister Mary, who gave birth to daughter Lucy in 1999 and Anton in 2002.
With the trust funds due to be distributed in October 2020, in March 2019 he felt strongly enough to take his case to court to cut out Kira and Damian. It led an outraged Bing to join forces with his former lovers to contest the legal action. ‘Steve hired his own lawyers and filed affidavits in support of his children,’ said Lisa.
In one affidavit filed to the court, he accused his sister Mary of orchestrating ‘a massive money grab’ to deprive Damian and Kira of their rightful inheritance in favour of her own.
One Hurley family friend said: ‘It is thought Mary’s children are incredibly wealthy, so it is seen as somewhat spiteful to go after the cousins in this way.’
Around this time, Lisa and Kira also met Liz for the first time.
‘Elizabeth came to California in June 2019 for one of the hearings. Obviously, it was not the best of circumstances, but she could not have been more lovely and more gracious, so I have nothing but praise for her,’ says Lisa.
In a favourable ruling in July 2019, Judge Daniel Juarez decided that there was no ambiguity to the definitions in the trust and Damian and Kira could be beneficiaries.
Peter Bing’s lawyers promptly filed an appeal — ultimately heard over Zoom in October last year.
The ruling went against Hurley and Lisa. Lisa says: ‘It was a bizarre outcome given that a huge number of children in the United States are now born out of wedlock.’
It meant the end of the road for Kira and Damian, who were by then dealing with a more visceral tragedy: last June, Steve Bing fell to his death from the balcony of his rented 27th floor apartment in Los Angeles.
In previous months his behaviour had become increasingly erratic. Lisa recalls him cancelling 13 consecutive meetings with Kira —and she believes the onset of the pandemic was the final blow.
‘I think he was incredibly lost and isolated,’ says Lisa. ‘I can’t imagine ever in a million years taking the drastic measure that he took — but he must have been in so much pain.’
Bing’s death sent shockwaves around the world, compounded by the revelation that the man believed to be worth $600 million (£435 million) had in fact left an estate worth just $337,000 (£260,000). A combination of generous charitable donations, debts and complex outstanding lawsuits against Steve’s estate had left him effectively insolvent.
‘After Steve died, Kira wrote Peter a letter and it was returned unopened,’ says Lisa. ‘Mary and her children have shown no interest either, but the greatest sadness here is that Peter Bing didn’t view this as an opportunity to get to know his grandchildren as a tribute to his son’s life. It’s a despicable reflection of how poorly a family can treat its own members.’
It’s a sentiment Damian — and Liz — sadly share.
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