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Death & Real Estate

Tensions suppressed during the elders’ lifetime usually emerge when their estates are adjudicated. If the deceased weren’t rich, these tensions go unnoticed except by members of the families involved. If they were rich — and powerful to boot, like financier Richard Blum and his wife Sen. Dianne Feinstein — the tensions can erupt into the media. DiFi is still among the living, but the inheritance fight has already begun. 

The DiFi saga as reported by Tim Arango and Shawn Hubler in the Times on August 3, concerns “an increasingly bitter legal and financial conflict that pits her and her daughter, Katherine Feinstein, against the three daughters of her late husband Richard C. Blum, who was a wealthy financier.

“In one legal dispute, the family is fighting over what’s described as Senator Feinstein’s desire to sell a beach house in an exclusive neighborhood in Stinson Beach, north of San Francisco. In another disagreement, the two factions are at odds over access to the proceeds of Mr. Blum’s life insurance, which Senator Feinstein says she needs to pay for her growing medical expenses…

“She was rich in her own right in 1980 when she married Mr. Blum… Her main residence is a 9,500-square-foot mansion in the upscale San Francisco neighborhood of Pacific Heights. Their vacation homes, until recently, included the 36-acre Bear Paw Ranch in Aspen, Colo., which sold in March for more than $25 million, and a seven-bedroom Lake Tahoe compound that sold in late 2021 for a reported $36 million. Current holdings include a property on the Hawaiian island of Kauai and a home in Washington, D.C.”

Diane Feinstein, née Goldman, had three husbands. First, a San Francisco judge named Jack Berman. Then Dr. Bertram Feinstein, a surgeon at Mt. Zion Hospital (and father of Katherine, the only child to whom Diane gave birth). Dr. Feinstein died in 1978. In 1980 Diane married Richard Blum. It was his third marriage, too. He’d had three daughters by his first wife, a woman named Andrea Schwartz. (The current dispute is what the Jewish people call “a shonda for the neighbors.”) Katherine’s adversaries are Annette Blum of Santa Monica, Heidi Blum of Switzerland, and Eileen Blum Bourgade of San Francisco.

Poor-mouthing is customary in fights like this, no matter how obvious the opulence of the litigants. Sure enough, we now read that although Blum “was often referred to in public accounts as a billionaire, people familiar with the family’s finances dispute that characterization and say that Mr. Blum’s wealth was less than some heirs had expected. Mr. Blum’s friends said that the pandemic cut deeply into his investments, particularly his extensive holdings in hotels.”

Katherine Feinstein’s suit contends that her mother has “incurred significant medical expenses” and that despite Mr. Blum’s “intent to support his spouse after his death, the purported trustees have refused to make distributions to reimburse Senator Feinstein’s medical expenses.” 

As the word purported suggests, Katherine is challenging the legitimacy of the two gentlemen appointed to administer Blum’s will — his longtime lawyer and the CFO of his private equity firm. They, of course, deny withholding disbursement to the ailing Senator. They question whether Katherine has been granted power of attorney by her mother and whether she is “acting out of personal interests and not out of those of her mother.” 

The trustees’ lawyer got in a dig with political implications, telling the Times, “Nor has Katherine made it clear, either in this filing or directly to my clients, why a sitting United States senator would require someone to have power of attorney over her.” 

They also got in a sanctimonious reference to Katherine having been adopted by Blum. “While my clients are deeply concerned, we all remain hopeful that this is simply a misunderstanding that can be quickly resolved, rather than a stepdaughter engaging in some kind of misguided attempt to gain control over trust assets to which she is not entitled.”

The piece ended by citing smooth Willie Brown stating the obvious while staying true to the Democratic National Committee: “Willie Brown, a former mayor of San Francisco and a longtime friend of the Feinstein family, said that the feud over finances probably reflects longstanding animosity between Katherine Feinstein and Mr. Blum’s three daughters. ‘There would not have been any issue, frankly, if there was mutual love between all the people,’ he said.

“Mr. Brown continued, ‘I frankly would rely upon the clarity of thought that the daughter has demonstrated in the past.’ He called Katherine Feinstein a ‘brilliant woman, a brilliant judge’ and said she ‘would not have taken whatever steps she has taken without some serious need to have that done, frankly, on behalf of her mother’.”

Who but a man who is almost never forthright needs to use one frankly per sentence? Brown also gets mileage out of honestly and to be honest, etc… Somebody ought to create a dictionary in which words are defined only by pictures of individuals who personify the trait. A picture of The Donald, for example, could accompany the term “sore loser.” (This dictionary can have more than one graphic per term, of course.) As the definition of “bullshit artist,” nobody would be more suitable than Willie Brown. 

* * *

A Conspiracy Theory: Your correspondent has no evidence whatsoever for the following assertion. The reason Dianne Feinstein won’t resign her Senate seat is that Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged to appoint a Black woman if and when the seat becomes available. Rep. Barbara Lee, who is running for that seat in 2024, is obviously the appropriate candidate to fill it if DiFi steps down. But the DNC doesn’t want uppity Barbara Lee to have the incumbent’s advantage over their golden boy, Adam Schiff. So Katie Porter, a political progressive and a woman, is induced to throw her hat in the ring. She will take votes away from Lee and her presence in the race virtually assures Schiff’s ascendance. What was Porter promised? Time will tell. Remember, this is totally made up. 

* * *

My Last Will by Joe Hill

(written in his cell, November 18, 1915, on the eve of his execution)

My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kind don’t need to fuss and moan —
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”

My body? Ah, If I could choose,
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.

Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my last and final will.
Good luck to all of you.


  1. Duchess of Dartmouth September 29, 2023

    A couple corrections. Katherine Feinstein was the daughter of Judge Berman (CA superior court). Dianne married Berman in December 1956. Katherine was born in July 1957.
    When Dianne married Dr Feinstein in 1962, Katherine took his name.
    She was never adopted by Blum.
    When Dianne married Blum she was wealthy, Dr Feinstein was successful, but NOT rich.

  2. Bruce McEwen September 30, 2023

    As a foil to all the hosannas being sung in her honor, I would enjoy reading a reprint of some of those articles Will Parish wrote about the Blum and Feinstein fortune’s ties to the state retirement funds; and how even someone as saintly as DiFi could get her hands soiled with filthy lucre whilst sacrificing her life to the public good.

    • Mark Scaramella September 30, 2023

      That five-part series is still in our archive beginning with
      with links to the next in the series at the end of each one.

      • Bruce McEwen September 30, 2023

        Thanks, Major!

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