British aristocrat is revealed as a beneficiary of Karl Lagerfeld’s will: Lady Amanda Harlech, 64, will inherit a portion of the late designer’s £178m fortune as a ‘thank you’ for her years of work – while his 11-year-old cat Choupette will receive £1.3m
The glittering annual Met Gala in New York is well used to supermodels and Hollywood actresses sashaying down the red carpet and purring for the cameras. It is, after all, the fashion world’s most prestigious and glamorous party. But one invitee to tomorrow’s bash, fresh from a shoot for Vogue magazine, is given more grooming attention than most A-list celebrities.
For this year’s guest of honour is the 11-year-old Birman cat owned by the late designer Karl Lagerfeld – a glossy white ball of immaculate fur called Choupette, whose adorable blue eyes belie an apparently ferocious temper.
Whether the animal is actually brought across the Atlantic from where she lives in France with Lagerfeld’s housekeeper-turned-cat-nanny, Francoise Cacote, remains to be seen.
Choupette, who features in this month’s Vogue in the arms of supermodel Naomi Campbell, has a busy schedule and even has her own agent. Precise instructions were left in Lagerfeld’s will that Cacote be given £1.3million to look after the moggie, which still earns fees from photoshoots and product endorsements.
But what of the rest of the fashion designer’s vast fortune?
Likely beneficiary: Seven people are set to inherit Karl Lagerfeld’s millions and one is British aristocrat and long-time Lagerfeld muse and collaborator Lady Amanda Harlech (pictured)
Furry favourite: Karl Lagerfeld with his beloved cat Choupette, who is 11 years old
Four years have passed since the death at the age of 85 of the man who helmed Chanel, Fendi and his own eponymous label – but his financial affairs remain mired in confusion.
When the fashion world gathers at the Met Gala tomorrow, they will celebrate the German-born legend with a dress code that reads simply: ‘In honour of Karl.’ Behind the scenes, however, fashionistas will be gripped by the extraordinary details of Lagerfeld’s estate. Hampered by disputes between potential beneficiaries, a disappearing accountant and the discovery of multiple secret bank accounts, the task of sorting out Lagerfeld’s estate has become fiendishly complex.
When he died, ‘Kaiser Karl’ was believed to have been worth in the region of £178 million. Various names from his coterie of favoured models, muses and loyal staff have been mooted as beneficiaries. But his fortune is now believed to be closer to £400 million. Even when tax liabilities – a thorny and complicated issue in itself – are dispensed with, there is likely to be a considerable sum remaining.
READ MORE: Karl Lagerfeld’s friend gives insight into late fashion designer’s fraught relationship with Claudia Schiffer after his 2019 death aged 85
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that seven people are set to inherit Lagerfeld’s millions and that one is British aristocrat and long-time Lagerfeld muse and collaborator Lady Amanda Harlech. Lady Amanda (she prefers plain Amanda) is the creative consultant for tomorrow’s Met Gala – a fitting role for the Oxford-educated mother-of-two whom Lagerfeld called his ‘outside eyes’ and regarded as one of his closest advisers.
‘Amanda is delightful, hugely well-educated, and rich in her own right, but she’s typical of those who captivated and inspired Karl, and he wanted to thank her,’ says an old friend of the designer in Paris.
It’s quite some thank you, though perhaps not surprising considering his generosity to those closest to him during his life.
Born Amanda Grieve, the life story of the solicitor’s daughter who grew up close to London’s Regent’s Park in the 1960s is almost as colourful and extraordinary as that of the boss-turned-friend.
Young Amanda was both a talented dancer, musician and artist – turning down a place at the Royal Ballet School and later having to choose between the Royal College of Music, the Slade and Somerville College, Oxford. She dazzled at Oxford (men were besotted) before taking a job at Harpers & Queen magazine.
It was there that she met the then rising young fashion designer John Galliano, thus forging the first of two remarkable creative partnerships.
In her 20s, she fell for the charms of Francis Ormsby-Gore, son of the 5th Baron Harlech, David Ormsby-Gore, the British ambassador to Washington. Francis wasn’t expecting the burdens of a title or crippling death duties to be thrust upon him by the premature death of his father in a car crash in 1985.
Adored: Choupette was beloved by Lagerfeld and is said to be the most photographed cat in the world
When Amanda married him in 1986 and became Lady Harlech, the couple were land-rich, cash-poor aristocrats. A son, Jasset, soon arrived, followed two years later by daughter Tallulah. The marriage was tempestuous. Ormsby-Gore was troubled. There were drink-driving convictions, drugs, and at the age of eight, Tallulah apparently asked her mother why another woman slept in her bed when she was away. It was the demise of the marriage – they finally divorced in 1998 – that also precipitated Amanda’s shock departure from Galliano to join Lagerfeld at Chanel.
The now single mother-of-two had to move out of the ancestral seat and needed a higher wage. Lagerfeld provided the solution, much to Galliano’s chagrin (though the two went on to reconcile). Thus, when the Harlech children were sent to Eton and Cheltenham Ladies’ College, it was Amanda who paid the fees.
Lord Harlech, about whom Amanda always spoke with deep affection, died aged just 61 in 2016.
Amanda, meanwhile, became an integral member of Lagerfeld’s team, as well as a friend.
He paid for her to maintain a suite at the Ritz when she was working in Paris and when her children, now 34 and 36, were growing up, they spent idyllic holidays at Lagerfeld’s homes around the world.
Tallulah made her first foray into the limelight when Lagerfeld took her hand and ushered her on stage at the end of a Chanel show. She has said: ‘My relationship with Karl is personal; he is a pseudo-godfather. He witnessed all those important teenage years when you start becoming the person you are going to be.’
As for her mother, her official title for Lagerfeld was creative consultant, but as Amanda’s father Alan Grieve put it in one interview: ‘She isn’t just a courtier; she’s Karl’s eyes and ears. She can instantly see how something might be improved, and this is a gift.’
Rich: The special cat is set to inherit £1.3million along with her new owner, but the money has not yet been released
Amanda, who once dated actor Ralph Fiennes, also shared Lagerfeld’s passion for the arts. She once asked him whether he might give a redesign of a Steinway grand piano to a conservatoire. His response? The piano arrived out of the blue one day at her Shropshire home.
In a beautiful homage to the designer in this month’s Vogue magazine, she wrote: ‘He loved that I lived in the middle of nowhere in Shropshire – maybe it reminded him of his childhood far from Hamburg in the pine forests – and he would send me boxes of books…
‘He wanted to give ‘Wuthering Heights’ (what he called my little farm) a library. Every year or so, he would threaten to visit me – ‘Where’s the nearest airport with a long runway for the private jet to land?’ Poignantly, she reflected on the fact that Lagerfeld never did visit before he succumbed to prostate cancer.
Amanda featured in last week’s BBC2 documentary The Mysterious Mr Lagerfeld.
While she does not discuss the contents of the will, the subject of Lagerfeld’s estate was a recurring theme of the programme.
Other beneficiaries include three of ‘Karl’s boys’, loyal bodyguard and chauffeur Sebastien Jondeau, model Baptiste Giabiconi, a French model who was ‘like a son’ to the designer after they met at a nude modelling session in 2008 when he was 19; and Brad Kroenig, one of the most successful male models in the world.
READ MORE: Karl Lagerfeld’s beloved cat Choupette and his housekeeper are yet to receive her £1.3 million inheritance amid wranglingover assets
Giabiconi, whose relationship with the designer has aroused much speculation, has revealed two intriguing facts – that Lagerfeld had wanted to adopt him (a plan only aborted because of the paperwork required) and that he is ‘at the top’ of the list of beneficiaries.
He is reportedly in line for a 30 per cent stake, with a legal source in Paris telling the MoS: ‘Mr Giabiconi has been informed of his inheritance, along with other major beneficiaries, and he has the largest share of the estate.’
The other official heirs are: Virginie Viard, 61, director of Chanel; Caroline Lebar, 59, head of communications for Lagerfeld the man and the brand; and Sophie de Langlade, director of collections for the brand. Others, including Princess Caroline of Monaco, 66, and writer Sandy Brant, 68, are said to have been bequeathed selected items of furniture and art. Eric Pfrunder, Chanel’s longtime image director, was set to inherit Lagerfeld’s photography collection but he died in December.
In the documentary, Lagerfeld’s lawyer Celine Degoulet described the state of the designer’s tax affairs as ‘not tidy’, adding such ‘successions’ can take ten years to iron out. It is perhaps no surprise that there have been reports since his death of simmering tensions, not least between the two French male beneficiaries, though these appear to have been sorted out as all those named in the will now share a single tax lawyer.
Complications were caused by Lagerfeld’s reliance on numerous secret accounts around the world. This was exacerbated when his longstanding – and elusive – accountant Lucien Frydlender, now approaching his 90s, abruptly shut up shop and ‘disappeared’ after Lagerfeld’s death. Much gossip ensued and it triggered an exasperated response from the accountant’s wife.
She said: ‘Let me tell you, I’d be delighted if my husband had gone to an island paradise with the hidden treasure, but the truth is that he is very sick.’
Lagerfeld was accused in 2016 of using offshore tax havens in the British Virgin Islands, Ireland and the US to keep up to £17.5 million away from French government coffers. His bids to avoid French tax were not always successful, however – he was also said to have bought a villa with views of Monte Carlo without checking if the property was actually in the tax haven of Monaco. It wasn’t.
Both he and Frydlender denied any wrongdoing and came to an agreement with investigators, but nevertheless Lagerfeld’s death heightened complications.
Last week, however, a legal source told the MoS: ‘Most of the problems have been resolved. There are still a few issues, but completion should not be too far away.’ Beyond millions in cash and shares, Lagerfeld’s estate included his private companies, a vast Paris home, a bookshop and associated library containing around 400,000 rare books, and furniture including a bed used by Marie-Antoinette, the last proper Queen of France.
Steps towards resolution (paying off the £17.5 million the authorities wanted in 2016 for a start) have been aided by a series of auctions or ‘fire sales’. Indeed, interest in the sales – in Germany, Monaco and Paris – is testament to the posthumous popularity of the idiosyncratic designer.
The total raised from one sale was £19.8 million. A combined silver pencil sharpener and adhesive tape dispenser went for more than £5,000. Three notebooks containing sketches sold for £150,000, and a doodled self-portrait by the designer himself raised just under £2,000. The Monte Carlo sale raised more than £10 million – four times the estimate.
Items snapped up included Lagerfeld’s favourite dark grey Rolls-Royce Phantom soft-top, which went for more than £400,000.
At tomorrow’s Met Gala, the focus will be on the show-stopping outfits worn in homage to Karl Lagerfeld’s fashion legacy. His coterie of advisers, friends and muses will reunite over champagne.
Elsewhere, however, there will be much more gossip over the great man’s millions – and a fair few envious glances at a certain fluffy white cat with blue eyes.
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