An elderly millionaire B.C. widow has been ordered to pay her younger "trophy husband" $157,000 in spousal support after the bitter end to their 14-year relationship.
Even though 86-year-old Valerie Fortune Brown wasn't legally married to Gordon Walker, who's 20 years younger, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled theirs was a spousal relationship and the unemployed Walker was entitled to support, The Canadian Press reports.
But reading Justice Randal Wong's decision, you get the impression the judge held his nose in awarding Walker the money.
Brown, an English-born former world-class figure skater and artist's model, had buried two husbands over the years. The second one, Vancouver businessman James Brown, left her very well off with a portfolio of investments worth more than $3 million and a large house on Yacht Road, in Sechelt, on the Sunshine Coast, a short ferry ride from Vancouver.
She met Walker, a high school-educated Ontario native living on welfare, in 1997 when both were working at a Sechelt poling station during an election. The lonely widow offered to circulate his resume but the relationship soon grew. She took him to lunch and dinner, bought him food hampers, a cell phone and a $120 pen, Wong wrote.
They started dating and became lovers, though Brown insists their relationship was platonic. She took him on trips, paying all the expenses, and gave him money to buy a house after he lost his rental apartment. Eventually Walker moved in to her Yacht Rd. home and the house she financed was sold, with Walker keeping the $229,000 proceeds as a "gift."
Brown also bought Walker a $10,000 Rolex watch and a Lexus SUV.
The key issues for Wong were whether Walker and Brown had a spousal relationship in the legal sense and, if so, whether Walker was entitled to financial support.
Brown contended Walker was merely a live-in friend who provided the security of a male escort and served as a companion and "heavy luggage porter" on trips.
But even though they slept in separate bedrooms in Brown's large home, Walker insisted they were sex partners. He would visit her room, announcing himself coyly as "the man from upstairs" to her giggles, the judge wrote.
Walker testified that he viewed himself as a "kept man" or "trophy husband." He never bothered finding work while he lived with Brown.
The two went on dozens of trips and attended social events together, which gave friends the impression they were a couple. They exchanged love notes and Brown marked the anniversary of the day they met. Photographs show them holding hands, hugging and cuddling.
"Throughout their 14 years together, they enjoyed a lavish lifestyle paid by Ms. Brown," Wong wrote. "They lavished each other with expensive gifts [though ultimately paid for by the Respondent]."
But their relationship soured. Wong said Walker was mercurial in his moods and became more assertive and demanding, especially when it came to money.
He wanted a bigger share of her assets, which she wanted to conserve for her adult children. She felt he was abusing his access to her credit cards, obtaining large cash advances, and secretly withdrawing money from their joint bank accounts.
The two finally split a year ago when she threw him out of her home. Still, he left with a $606,000 settlement from a share of the Yacht Rd. property she'd given him. After the breakup, a depressed Walker gambled away about $100,000.
Wong said regardless of the conflicting testimony about their sexual relationship, Walker and Brown were in a spousal relationship. Now 66 and in apparent dodgy health, Walker's employment prospects are limited, the judge said.
"He clearly has needs," Wong said in granting Walker's demand for support, and Brown "still has ample means" after paying it.
That's the legal decision, but Wong clearly was not sympathetic to Walker the man.
After they broke up, Walker threatened to publish a graphically detailed memoir about his relationship with Brown, samples of which he sent to her lawyer. He suggested Brown pay him $350,000 to avoid embarrassment and humiliation if the writings were circulated to her family and friends in the skating world.
To prevent that, Wong upheld a lower-court temporary restraining order keeping Walker from distributing the material in any form, including online.
"Mr. Walker’s threats of publication were improper and reprehensible to intimidate Ms. Brown in order to extract a financial gain," Wong said in making the injunction permanent.
Walker will also have to pay the likely substantial cost of the litigation out of his settlement instead of Brown being forced to pay, which is usual in successful cases.
"The Claimant’s conduct is deserving of rebuke such that this Court should disassociate itself from his behaviour; warranting an order denying him costs," Wong said.