Monday, June 04, 2007

Value Added

The Polskys, husband and wife, came from Kiev with little more than the clothes they stood up in. Thirty years later, they are fabulously wealthy, but no longer husband and wife. So what is a wife worth, anyway? A price above rubies? Or next to nothing?

Michael Polsky doesn't place much value on the position of wife, homemaker and mother. He's hotly contesting Judge William Boyd's decision to award Maya Polsky half of the couple's assets, claiming that he's the only one of the couple who actually built up all that money. What was she doing anyway, but staying at home?

Easy to forget that when he came home from a long day, growing an energy firm, she had his dinner on the table. Saved him hours of time every week, in that he didn't have to cook or shop or cut or chop. What's the value of a chef, live-in help, preparing three meals a day, seven days a week, for thirty one years?

Michael could open the doors of his closet and find pressed suits, starched shirts and clean underwear. What is the cost of laundry service for thirty one years? What is the worth of a personal manager who will see to it that the laundry is done, that a lucky suit is ready for the big meeting? How much would one pay for a housekeeper? A party planner? A social director to organize business entertainments? At what price would a man hire on a confidante, someone to patiently listen to his whinging but with a commitment to remain in the post until death.

They had two children, two sons to carry on the family name and genetic heritage, and to take over Daddy's business empire so that it does not expire with the old man. What would it cost to hire someone to produce two children, and then raise them? A full time nanny does not come cheap, and then there's the cost of the chauffeur to ferry them about to all the activities that are selected to edify the child's mind and body. To say nothing of staying current with the latest trends, so that the kids aren't out of the social loop. Researching schools, hiring tutors, monitoring educational progress...all of that is done by the wife who stays at home, but is it valueless employment?

Then there's sexual services, nursing services when Michael fell ill, gift-buying services so that no one was forgotten when Michael was too busy at work to take care of the domestic side of life. To listen to Mr. Polsky's lawyer, one would think that the missus had no stake in the growth and success of the Polsky business, and has no right to be given half, because what she did was worthless. Judge Boyd didn't see it that way, so he divided up the pot, 50/50, and now Mr. Polsky is hell-bent to fight it.

He'd be wise to stop while he's ahead. A savvy attorney and a judge who appreciates his wife just might figure out what a wife's services were worth to the Polsky empire, and Michael Polsky could be left with little more than the clothes he stands up in.

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