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Jack Kent Cooke’s Estate Fight Ends

April 14, 1998

SPRINGFIELD, Va. (AP) _ A year after Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke died and left his wife nothing, his heirs reached a secret settlement with the widow, estate lawyers said Monday.

The agreement resolves lawsuits filed by Marlena Ramallo Cooke and by lawyers for the estimated $825 million estate, and averts a trial scheduled for April 20

Citing sources familiar with the agreement, The Washington Post reported late Monday that Mrs. Cooke will get $20 million in the settlement.

Mrs. Cooke, who was twice married to the irascible sports entrepreneur, had claimed up to a third of his estate. During the year of sniping since Cooke died April 6, 1997, she complained that her husband’s lawyers canceled her credit card, seized her Jaguar and forced her from the couple’s Washington home.

Cooke changed his will often to add or delete relatives and aides, sometimes appearing generous and sometimes petty. He gave no explanation when he cut his wife out of the will 13 weeks before he died at age 84.

Estate lawyers said Mrs. Cooke didn’t deserve a dime because she abandoned her ailing husband in the last weeks of his life and never lived with him ``as man and wife″ as spelled out in their prenuptial agreement.

The trial to parcel out Cooke’s money was expected to last a month or more and feature testimony about Cooke allegedly tape-recorded his wife’s calls and tracked her movements through Washington’s nightlife.

``The litigation will be dismissed. The terms of the settlement will remain confidential,″ estate lawyer Dennis Belcher said.

Belcher said lawyers for both sides struck the deal over the weekend. Mrs. Cooke’s lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, did not return a call.

Mrs. Cooke, 45, argued in court filings and in a deposition in the case that she was forced to sign the prenuptial agreement the day before her wedding in July 1995 and that Cooke hid the true value of his estate from her.

The judge in the case, Fauquier County Circuit Judge William Shore Robertson, repeatedly urged both sides to settle. He said lawyers’ fees could quickly chew through much of Cooke’s money, most of which he set aside for a charitable foundation.

``If ever there was a case that cried out for settlement, this is it,″ he said.

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