Arnold's Riches Likely to Take a Big Hit

Schwarzenegger divorce from Maria Shriver might cost the former California governor $200 million or more. On the table is the Kennedy heiress's fortune and the ex-movie star's take from his cadre of films. Insiders report that full trust went into the relationship and no prenuptial agreements were ever signed.

Now that Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger are talking to high-power Beverly Hills lawyers, it looks like divorce papers are imminent and the wrangling over the couple’s massive fortune will begin.

Schwarzenegger’s position looks uncharacteristically weak, since the Austrian action star turned California governor already admitted to having an extramarital affair with a housekeeper that produced a now-13-year-old son.

Even though California is a no-fault state, a public figure in this situation probably doesn’t want to fight too hard. In the eyes of God, the media and everybody else, Maria’s the sympathetic party here.

And according to star Los Angeles divorce lawyer J. Michael Kelly, it’s even debatable whether former farm boy Schwarzenegger would have dared ask the granddaughter of Joe Kennedy himself to sign a prenuptial contract:

“He married royalty, so the question is would he dare actually propose a prenup?”

If he didn’t, that star-struck Austrian giant may have ultimately cost himself $200 million.

A rare window into Hollywood wealth...

Given California’s community property rules, if there’s no prenup or other asset protection arrangement on the table, Maria could theoretically be entitled to half of her husband’s sprawling business and entertainment empire.

While most celebrity finances are shielded by a screen of trusts, partnerships and management companies, we  know a surprising amount about Schwarzenegger’s money because he had to disclose his economic interests every year he was governor.

The last report, filed just four months before Maria moved out, is admittedly pretty vague.

For example most of Schwarzenegger’s assets are valued in one of two ranges: “$100,000 to $1 million” and “$1 million or more.” That’s not really helpful in getting a sense of his true net worth -- although most reports peg his wealth at $400 million or so, he could easily be a billionaire.

The report doesn’t list any trusts in his name, so we can probably rule out asset protection out as a factor if the split actually goes to court.

Under the right circumstances, had Schwarzenegger transferred most of his wealth to a self-settled spendthrift trust, he could’ve shielded that money even from divorce court and child support claims.

Of course, onshore asset protection trusts weren’t allowed back in 1986, so he would’ve had to go offshore or moved the money after a few years of marriage.

Either way, the transfer would leave a paper trail on his gubernatorial statements that just isn’t there -- although Maria has reportedly hired a detective to make sure all the marital property is still accounted for.

…and a peek at the Kennedy Trusts

Speaking of marital property, Maria seems to have kept her family money and her earnings as a TV journalist separate from her husband’s assets.

Before her mother Eunice Shriver died in mid-2009, that wealth was relatively minor.

Maria’s six best-selling books still bring in a few thousand dollars a year and she receives a similar token distribution from one of the famously secretive Kennedy family trusts.

But Maria also inherited a share of Eunice’s interest in the 1926 and 1936 Kennedy trusts created by Joe Kennedy himself.

Those interests were distributed on December 31, leaving Maria -- but not Arnold -- at least a few million dollars richer.

His money seems to be commingled and is now exposed to division by the divorce courts. Hers isn’t.

Bad timing for the Terminator?

If Maria signed a prenup and it’s still in force 25 years after the fact, that’s that. She’s entitled to the considerable property she brought into the marriage plus whatever else the agreement says she gets.

But assuming for a moment that Schwarzenegger’s Hollywood lawyers somehow muscled him into putting the papers in front of his then-blushing bride back in 1986, there’s no guarantee that the contract is still valid.

Divorce gurus like Raoul Lionel Felder, who represented Rudy Giuliani in his $6.8 million split,  have pointed out that since some prenups automatically expire after 10 to 15 years, any Shriver/Schwarzenegger pact may be history anyway.

Still, as far as the ex-governor is concerned, even that admittedly speculative scenario makes the timing of his infidelity -- and its long-delayed revelation -- either unlucky or poorly planned.

If there was a clock ticking on the prenup, the financially astute time to tell Maria was 1997 when his illegitimate son was born. She might still have left, but her split of the family fortune would have been limited to whatever the contract spelled out.

Of course, that’s a cold-blooded move even for the Terminator, since Maria gave birth to their fourth child at about the same time.

In any event, back then Schwarzenegger was bragging that he was only worth $50 million.

That was back in the early days of the DVD boom, when his entire back catalog of films -- everything from Pumping Iron through the Terminator movies and even the kiddie comedies -- was only just turning into a perpetual cash machine.

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