Reclusive Heiress Dies at 104

by | May 24, 2011 at 1:41 PM | Personalities

Copper heiress Huguette M. Clark died on May 24.

According to msnbc.com, Huguette M. Clark, the mysterious copper heiress who became the subject of public fascination and police investigation after a century of life as a recluse, died Tuesday morning at age 104, registered under a fake name at a hospital in New York City.

The handling, or possible mishandling, of her fortune were the subject of a series of reports last year on msnbc.com.

Clark first caught the imagination of the public in February 2010, when it was reported her three opulent homes remained unoccupied: an estate alongside the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara, Calif., worth an estimated $100 million, which she had not visited since the 1950s; a country house in New Canaan, Conn., on the market for $23 million, which she expanded but never spent a night in; and the largest apartment on New York City’s Fifth Avenue — 42 rooms on the 8th and 12th floors, valued at about $100 million.

Huguette (pronounced “hue-GET”) Marcelle Clark was born in Paris in 1906, the youngest child of U.S. Sen. William Andrews Clark of Montana (1839-1925), known as one of the copper kings. When she was a child, her father was described by The New York Times as either the richest or second-richest American, neck and neck with John D. Rockefeller.

When her father died in 1925, she received an allowance of $7,500 a month (about $1.2 million a year in today’s dollars), and when she reached 21 she inherited one-fifth of her father’s estate, an even split with his children from his first marriage. The entire estate was estimated at up to $300 million, or about $3.6 billion today.

The spike in interest in Clark also brought about a criminal investigation of her finances and the role her attorney and accountant played.

She died just two weeks short of her 105th birthday, on June 9. The cause of her death was not disclosed.