October 28, 2020

Patricia Kluge Loses a Fortune, But Not Her Resolve

After filing for bankruptcy in June, she has a day job.

Not an ordinary job though. She is working for Donald Trump, who scooped up the winery and vineyard that she had built on the Virginia estate — a high-risk venture that drained all her money until she had to seek protection from her creditors in court.

And she is living no ordinary life. Instead, she rents a 6,000-square-foot home with a swimming pool and five bedrooms decorated by a celebrity designer, David Easton, in what was intended to be the first house in an exclusive gated community down the road from her old mansion.

Her vision for an estate and business and gated community was certainly outsize. But the undoing of Ms. Kluge (pronounced KLOO-gy, with a hard “g”) was not so different from that of many Americans who maxed out their credit cards and their home loans during boom times. She borrowed heavily. It’s just that she had so much more to leverage.

While her financial straits have been documented as banks closed in on her, she is speaking publicly at last about her bankruptcy, sounding resolute, reassuring herself about the future — without the liveried servants that once attended to guests at her hunting parties.

“I loved the life I lived at Albemarle. Are you kidding? But it does not define who I am,” she says, dressed in cotton slacks and a T-shirt from the Mount Kenya Safari Club. “If you can get a job, you can build another fortune,” she adds. “That is what I focus on.”

For now, Ms. Kluge, 62, and her husband, William Moses, 64, will make about $250,000 under a one-year contract to work for Mr. Trump at the winery. She handles winemaking, bottling and marketing, and Mr. Moses oversees legal and other matters part time. Roughly a third of their money goes to rent.

Lest anyone think that Ms. Kluge’s worries are entirely over, her lawyer points out that the future is unclear. “They are walking out of bankruptcy with nothing,” said the couple’s lawyer, Kermit A. Rosenberg, a partner at Butzell Long Tighe Patton. When they filed for bankruptcy, the couple listed $2.6 million in assets and $47.5 million in liabilities.

From her living room, she points to the few items that are hers: the photographs — her son in St.-Tropez two decades ago and her 2000 wedding to Mr. Moses — and her dogs, a Labrador retriever and a Tibetan terrier.

“No one should feel sorry for us,” Ms. Kluge added later. “I have a great family, a wonderful marriage and loving children and friends. We are not looking at this bankruptcy as if our life has ended. We see this as an opportunity to recreate ourselves.”

In business, she says, she went down a familiar path learned from Mr. Kluge. During the 1980s, he sold his highly leveraged media properties to a variety of buyers, most notably Rupert Murdoch, for more than $3 billion. “John was a huge borrower,” Ms. Kluge recalled. Her strategy was similar, attract equity investors to pay off the debt, make the business cash-flow positive and then sell.

Over a decade, she bet more than $65 million, using her own money at first and then borrowing more, on the winery, a notoriously risky and capital-intensive business. When the economy turned down, she could not make her payments, and the banks forced her to sell her estate, her winery, her jewels and the land she had acquired for the gated community. The jewelry and home furnishings raised nearly $20 million in a pair of auctions.

“It is Shakespearean in that Patricia aimed so high and did not make use of the kind of financial advice that would have increased the chances of making the vineyard work and minimized her financial exposure from the outset,” said Les Goldman, a business adviser and former partner at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher Flom.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0ebd0f603019212247b79834fb3861f3

Despite Risk, Embalmers Still Embrace Preservative

With the government declaring formaldehyde a carcinogen, these might be boom times for alternative embalming fluids — if it weren’t for the so-called everlasting effect funeral directors stake their reputations on.

“Formaldehyde is the perfect product for fixation and short-term preservation,” said Debbie Dodge, president of the Dodge Company in Cambridge, Mass., which markets embalming fluids to funeral homes. “Formaldehyde will firm up the body tissue more than any of the nonformaldehyde products out there.”

The formaldehyde industry fought the government’s designation for years, arguing that the science was fuzzy on the link between the chemical and certain cancers. Consumer advocates hope a government warning in June will spur increased demand for products with little or no formaldehyde — for items as diverse as plywood, pressed wood, wrinkle-free shirts and hair straighteners.

Among funeral directors? Not likely.

Next to arsenic, which is no longer used, undertakers insist nothing else preserves the body long enough so that it is presentable for public viewing and can be shipped. In embalming rooms across the country, the focus is on limiting exposure while still using enough of the chemical to keep the customer looking as lifelike as possible.

“Family members,” John H. Fitch Jr., senior vice president of advocacy for the National Funeral Directors Association, “have a fairly high expectation.”

Undertakers have been aware of formaldehyde’s dangers for more than a decade — the first workplace restrictions on formaldehyde came in the 1980s — and many have been changing their embalming practices to make the process safer.

“In our new facility, the ventilation is very good,” said Michael J. Lensing, co-owner of the Lensing Funeral and Cremation Service, in Iowa City, Iowa. “In our old facility, oh, my God. It was different.” At the Lensing funeral home, roughly 60 percent of the bodies are embalmed.

The array of precautions were on display at the A. A. Rayner Sons Funeral Home on Chicago’s South Side, where Charles S. Childs Jr. provided a tour last month of a funeral home started in 1947 by his grandfather.

Back then, he said, embalmers went about their work without gloves or masks or much ventilation. Years later, ducts were installed in the ceiling so the fumes wafted in front of their faces as they were sucked out of the room.

But now Mr. Childs’s embalming area is fume-free. There were five bodies lying on gurneys, in various states of preparation, and a sixth in a harness, prepared to be lowered into a casket. A colleague who was preparing to embalm one of the bodies wore gloves and a protective apron, and planned to add eyewear and a mask once he got started.

Mr. Childs pointed to ventilation ducts installed at table level.

“We have to protect ourselves,” Mr. Childs said.

Various forms of body preservation have been around for eons, including mummification by the ancient Egyptians. During the Civil War, embalmers prepared the bodies of soldiers on the battlefield and shipped them their family by train or horse and buggy. A high point in embalming lore is that President Lincoln’s body traveled by train from Washington to Springfield, Ill., with public viewings on the way.

Arsenic was then one of the primary preservatives. Formaldehyde eventually replaced it.

Modern-day embalming fluid is a mixture of formaldehyde, other less toxic chemicals and water. The embalming fluid that is injected to the arterial system, to replace blood, is up to 5 percent formaldehyde, while a more concentrated form — up to 50 percent formaldehyde — is injected into the body cavity.

An average embalming requires a minimum of three gallons of the embalming solution, said Melissa Johnson Williams, executive director of the American Society of Embalmers.

Ms. Dodge’s company began selling embalming fluids without formaldehyde a few years ago, and some companies now market “green burials” in which less toxic chemicals are used. But while the sales of nonformaldehyde products are increasing, she said that as of yet they simply do not work as well and cost nearly three times as much.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=cdace8ccabdeebc7dc943b34c021e0b8

Despite Cancer Risk, Embalmers Stay With Formaldehyde

With the government declaring formaldehyde a carcinogen, these might be boom times for alternative embalming fluids — if it weren’t for the so-called everlasting effect every funeral director stakes his reputation on.

“Formaldehyde is the perfect product for fixation and short-term preservation,” said Debbie Dodge, the president of the Dodge Company in Cambridge, Mass., which markets embalming fluids to funeral homes. “Formaldehyde will firm up the body tissue more than any of the nonformaldehyde products out there.”

The formaldehyde industry fought the government’s designation for years, arguing that the science was fuzzy on the link between the chemical and certain cancers. Consumer advocates hope a government warning in June will spur increased demand for products with little or no formaldehyde — for items as diverse as plywood, pressed wood, wrinkle-free shirts and hair straighteners.

Among funeral directors? Not likely.

Next to arsenic, which is no longer used, undertakers insist nothing else preserves the body long enough so that it is presentable for public viewing and can be shipped. In embalming rooms across the country, the focus is on limiting exposure while still using enough of the chemical to keep the customer looking as lifelike as possible.

“Family members,” John H. Fitch Jr., senior vice president of advocacy for the National Funeral Directors Association, “have a fairly high expectation.”

Undertakers have been aware of formaldehyde’s dangers for more than a decade — the first workplace restrictions on formaldehyde came in the 1980s — and many have been changing their embalming practices to make the process safer.

“In our new facility, the ventilation is very good,” said Michael J. Lensing, co-owner of the Lensing Funeral and Cremation Service, in Iowa City, Iowa. “In our old facility, oh, my God. It was different.” At the Lensing funeral home, roughly 60 percent of the bodies that come in are embalmed.

The array of precautions were on display at the A. A. Rayner Sons Funeral Home on Chicago’s South Side, where Charles S. Childs Jr. provided a tour this week of a funeral home started in 1947 by his grandfather.

Back then, he said, embalmers went about their work without gloves or masks or much ventilation. Years later, ducts were installed in the ceiling so the fumes wafted in front of their faces as they were sucked out of the room.

But now Mr. Childs’s embalming area is fume-free. There were five bodies lying on gurneys, in various states of preparation, and a sixth in a harness, prepared to be lowered into a casket. A colleague who was preparing to embalm one of the bodies wore gloves and a protective apron, and planned to add eyewear and a mask once he got started.

Mr. Childs pointed to ventilation ducts installed at table level.

“We have to protect ourselves,” Mr. Childs said.

Various forms of body preservation have been around for eons, including mummification by the ancient Egyptians. During the Civil War, embalmers prepared the remains of soldiers in the battlefield and shipped them back to their family by train or horse and buggy. A high point, in embalming lore, is that President Lincoln’s body traveled by train from Washington to Springfield, Ill., with public viewings of the preserved remains along the way.

At that time, arsenic was one of the primary preservatives. It was eventually replaced by formaldehyde.

Modern-day embalming fluid is a mixture of formaldehyde, other less toxic chemicals and water. The embalming fluid that is injected to the arterial system, to replace blood, is up to 5 percent formaldehyde, while a more concentrated form — up to 50 percent formaldehyde — is injected into the body cavity.

An average embalming requires a minimum of three gallons of the embalming solution, said Melissa Johnson Williams, executive director of the American Society of Embalmers.

Ms. Dodge’s company began selling embalming fluids without formaldehyde a few years ago, and some companies now market “green burials” in which less toxic chemicals are used. But while the sales of nonformaldehyde products are increasing, she said that as of yet they simply do not work as well and cost nearly three times as much.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=cdace8ccabdeebc7dc943b34c021e0b8