Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Paul Newman Once Told His Kids 'There Would Be No Inheritance' — Inside Their Battle for His $600M Estate

Gaone Pule
Apr 23, 2022
01:30 P.M.
Share this pen

Paul Newman was a recipient of numerous accolades, best known for his role in classics such as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting." He had been married twice and fathered six children. 


Paul Newman was a Hollywood actor who had been married twice. After finishing college in 1949, he did summer stock theater in Wisconsin, where he met his first wife, actress Jacqueline Witte.  

The couple soon tied the knot, and Newman continued to act until his father's passing in 1950. He and Witte relocated to Ohio to run the family business for a while.  

(L) Actor Paul Newman at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California. (R) Paul Newman and wife, Joanne Woodward with their daughters Melissa, 13, and Clea, 9. / Source: Getty Images


The film director later asked his brother to hold the fort, and he and his family moved to Connecticut, where he studied at the Yale School of Drama.  

While there, Newman ran out of money and dropped out at Yale after one year. The film star tried his luck in New York and studied with Lee Strasberg at the famed Actor's Studio.  

The BAFTA  Award winner made his Broadway debut in William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy "Picnic" in 1953. He met actress Joanne Woodward during rehearsals, who served as an understudy for the production.  

Paul Newman and his wife, actress Joanne Woodward photographed on location for a television special. / Source: Getty Images


Though they were reportedly attracted to each other, the happily-married Newman avoided pursuing a romantic relationship with the young starlet. 

"Picnic" ran for 14 months, and it helped him support his growing family. Newman and Witte were married until 1958. Before they divorced, they welcomed three children: Scott, Stephanie, and Susan.  

Newman later wed Woodward in 1958, and the couple was married for 50 years until his death in 2008. The pair had three daughters, Claire, Melissa, and Nell. 

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward pictured together after they both received awards from the New York Film Critics at the Rainbow Room on January 26, 1969 in Manhattan. / Source: Getty Images


Newman was born in January 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with his older brother Arthur and his parents, Arthur and Theresa.  

The Hollywood veteran's father owned a sporting-goods store, and his mother was a homemaker who loved the theatre. Newman first experienced acting while doing school plays, but it was not his first love.  

In high school, he played football and aspired to become a professional athlete. Newman later attended Kenyon College in his home state and was on an athletic scholarship as he played on the school's football team.  

Pictured: A close-up photo of Academy Award winner Paul Newman wearing a red jersey with a blue shirt. / Source: Getty Images


However, after getting into trouble, young Newman changed course, telling Interview magazine in 1998 he did not intend on studying much: 

"I got thrown in jail and kicked off the football team. Since I was determined not to study very much, I majored in theater the last two years." 


Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman at Radio City Music Hall for "A Change Is Going To Come: The Concert for John Kerry" July 8, 2004 in New York City. / Source: Getty Images


Newman had an illustrious acting career which included winning an Oscar, an Academy Award, and three Golden Globe awards. In May 2007, he told ABC News about his plans to retire: 

"I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level that I would want to. You start to lose your memory. You start to lose your confidence and you start to lose your invention. So, I think that's a closed book for me." 

Sadly, Newman passed away in September 2008 at the age of 83 after losing a long battle against cancer. The entrepreneur died at his farmhouse near Westport, Connecticut, surrounded by family and close friends. 

Former race car driver Paul Newman at the Indy 500 in May 1984 in Indianapolis, Indiana. / Source: Getty Images


In battling his illness, Newman initially tried to downplay concerns about his health following reports that he had cancer treatment in New York.  

He once pulled out of directing a Connecticut stage production of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" because of unspecified health issues. Newman later released a statement that said he was "doing nicely." 

But A. E. Hotchner, who helped create the successful Newman's Own food company in 1982, revealed that his business partner had been sick for 18 months. Hotchner told the Associated Press that Newman had been battling cancer.  

Later, the US press reported that the "Cars" star had finished chemotherapy and told his family that he wanted to die at home. Newman had developed lung cancer. His death did not close any books for his kids as they battled for the massive estate he left behind. 



Paul Newman pictured for the Ford Motor Company's 75th anniversary special on October 5, 1978 on CBS television. / Source: Getty Images

According to Newman's eldest daughter Susan, he declared he would not give his children an inheritance and believed a vast sum of money would only ruin their lives: 


"When we were children, our father informed us there would be no inheritance. He said large sums of money eroded your ambition and mostly sabotaged your life." 

Susan, 69, further stated that she and all her siblings accepted that while noting that it was not to say that financial assistance would not be a factor over the years.  

Actress Susan Kendall Newman photographed wearing a gray off-shoulder dress with a black turtle-neck underneath. / Source: Getty Images


She revealed that in her mid-30s, her dad called a family meeting and told his family that he would be making some provisions for all his kids. The actress said Woodard influenced her father in making his final decision to leave them something from his fortune.  

Newman changed his tune after the death of his son Scott and began giving his surviving children money. In inspiring them to follow in his philanthropic footsteps, "The Hustler" star began giving each of his five daughters $25,000 annually – to donate to charities of their choice.  

The proud father proceeded to plan to give his daughters $500,000 each with a foundation called Newman's Own Foundation set up for each of them after his death.  


Director and entrepreneur Paul Newman pictured smiling in 1981 in New York City. / Source: Getty Images

Earlier planning documents suggested that 50 percent of his residual estate would be equally distributed among his children's foundations, with the remaining 50 percent to support his wife, Woodward.  


Throughout the years, Newman had often changed his estate plans. The executor of his will, Brian Murphy, revealed the distribution of his assets had been governed by the terms of a trust created in 1980:  

"Over the years, the trust was amended twelve times, the last being in April 2008, six months before Paul's death." 

Paul Newman conversing with his daughter Susan Kendall Newman, during a break in the filming of the movie, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," in Hollywood. / Source: Getty Images


In 2006, Susan met with her father's advisor Robert Forrester: "I was told each daughter would inherit a million dollars, which was a sizable increase over what we had been told previously, and my father would set up foundations for each of us," said Susan.  

She revealed Forrester told her that the foundations would receive funds with up to $30 million or more per daughter. Susan also learned that his Newman's Own Foundation would have some supervision over them and that monies had to be administered within a certain period.  

In addition, the children were to serve on the Newman's Own Foundation board and the entity controlled by the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, with one or two daughters serving on its board of directors on a rotating basis.  


Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward with two of their daughters during a performance by the Ballet Society of Los Angeles at the Wilshire-Ebell Theater in March 1969 Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images

On August 13, 2007, Newman candidly spoke on intentions for his family, stating that he would give all his brood a set amount to give away annually: 


"All my children get a certain amount to be able to give away every year, and they will be giving away my estate as well. " 

On April 11, 2008, only six months before his death, Newman rewrote his will with the assistance of a new lawyer. On August 11, a medical report stated he suffered from memory loss.  

Paul Newman at the Shrine Auditorium during the 67th Annual Academy Awards on March 27,1995 in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images


Newman would then call his nonagenarian attorney's Westport office instead of his new attorney, suggesting his already decided issues.  

When asked about Newman's state of mind in his final days, Forrester shared he was well in his right mind as he made thought-out decisions and was fully aware of his planning.


Paul Newman and his daughter Susan Newman during Paul Newman sighting at the Riverside Raceway on April 26, 1981 at Riverside Raceway in Riverside, California. / Source: Getty Images


Following Newman's funeral, the reading of his will backtracked on everything that he and his advisors had repeatedly expressed. "We had the rug pulled from under us," said his daughter Susan. 

Almost everything that the daughters were promised diminished. There were no details about one or two daughters rotating on the Newman's Own Foundation board because, according to Forrester, their father had a change of heart. 

He said Newman never perceived Newman's Own as a family enterprise. Instead, for him, it was always about the public good. Forrester acknowledged that at some point, Newman pondered about having one daughter on each board serving a time-limited term but ultimately decided against it. 


Paul Newman and wife actress Joanne Woodward with their daughters at the "2001: A Space Odyssey" screening on April 3, 1968 in New York City. / Source: Getty Images

The millions discussed as going into their foundations were deferred to Woodward's marital trust. Moreover, the daughter's foundations would not receive funding until her death to ensure that she was cared for sufficiently. 


According to Susan, the keys to their father's wealth had been handed to Forrester as he became less and less communicative when they asked him for more meetings. "The keys had virtually been given to one man, Bob Forrester," she said.

Susan revealed prior to their father's death, Forrester preached a lot about transparency. However, after Newman's passing, everything else changed, and when they asked questions, she and her sisters were accused of being confrontational.  

Paul Newman and his daughter, actress Susan Kendall Newman, arriving at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for the Academy Awards ceremony on April 11, 1983 in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images


He even riled up when they asked to meet up with him. Soon after he gained complete control of the foundation, Forrester ensured that every employee remained mum about the happenings in the organization as it became impossible for the kids to get answers.  

He later admitted that employees, business partners, advisors, and members of the board signed confidentiality agreements. Some of Newman's daughters considered asking for a 10-day continuance before the will got filed for probate.  

Susan Kendall Newman pictured sitting on a staircase in January 1978 in Hollywood. / Source: Getty Images


Susan revealed they discussed the motion with numerous lawyers, and they did not see an issue with seeking clarity on the changes. But Forrester refused to cooperate and even threatened the daughters if they contested the will: 

"You're contesting the will and could be disinherited." 

He also said that he had no memory of conversing with the daughters about the request to challenge the will, adding they should not have made it with him but with other lawyers.  

Bob Forrester during the 2018 SeriousFun Children's Network Gala at The Ziegfeld Ballroom on May 21, 2018 in New York City. / Source: Getty Images


Forrester also alleged Woodward was well aware of her husband's estate plans. But those who know her stated otherwise, revealing she was upset to a point whereby the subject became taboo. Susan shared it was no secret that her stepmother despised Forrester: 

"Joanne's dislike for Bob is well-known within her circle." 

Susan added that while her dad's foundation remains a global force in funding good works, some people doubt whether Newman's wishes are truly fulfilled.  

Newman's Own President and CEO Bob Forrester during SeriousFun Children's Network's New York City Gala at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center on March 2, 2015 in New York City. / Source: Getty mages


Upon learning about the disposition of her spouse's reported $600 million estate, Woodward allegedly exclaimed: "Oh, my God, that's not what it was supposed to be!" 

On why she spoke out about her father's fortune, Susan said as the oldest sibling; it was her responsibility to safeguard his legacy: 

"As Paul's eldest daughter, I feel a responsibility, call it a duty, to fulfill his wishes and safeguard his legacy." 

According to a close friend of Newman, despite all the back and forth, the true nature of his will may remain a mystery, "I don't know, and nobody knows precisely what the whole thing is in terms of Paul's wishes or settlements," said the pal.  



Paul Newman with wife Joanne Woodward and son Allan Scott on March 14,1968 in New York, New York. / Source: Getty Images

Regardless of his complex will Newman did his best to be a great father, although he had regrets after his son's death. In 1978, the father of six's life hit rock bottom when his only son Scott died of an accidental drug-and-alcohol overdose at age 28. 


Scott had endured troubled adolescence; he got kicked out of several prep schools for using drugs and alcohol for disruptive behavior. Overcome with anguish after his death, Scott's father could not come to terms with his untimely death.  

Newman confided in Hotchner during a fishing trip in the Bahamas that he often thought about Scott, and it hurt. "The guilt. The guilt. All I could have done. And didn't do. And all I did was make more movies and be a big star," said Newman. 

Paul Newman and his son Scott Newman during the Ontario 500 automobile race on September 3, 1972 in Ontario, California. / Source: Getty Images


His biggest regret was that he and Scott had never talked about his problems. Meanwhile, Newman's youngest daughter Clea told Closer Weekly in August 2018 that she would ensure that her dad's legacy lives on.  

Clea revealed that from a young age, her parents taught her and her siblings that being a good citizen in the community and giving back should be a priority if growing up in a well-off family. She added how proud she was to be part of her father's legacy deeming it a special gift and honor.