Nobel Winner’s Heirs Feud Over His Tuscan Villa and Millions

(The Daily Beast) - Nobel Prize-winning Canadian economist Robert Mundell, often referred to as the “father of the euro,” died at his palatial home in Italy without a will in 2021.

Now his heirs are squabbling over the villa and millions of dollars in assets they believe were illegally commandeered by his widowed second wife.

According to a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court on Friday, the plaintiffs—William, Robyn, Alexander, and Lily Mundell—accuse Robert Mundell’s wife, Valerie Natsios-Mundell, of fraud and other misdeeds. They are seeking their alleged share of the estate, plus punitive damages and attorney fees.

“It’s beautiful,” Robyn Mundell told The Daily Beast of the villa. “We grew up there and spent every summer [there] with our kids.” She added that her father used to host conferences at the home “every summer with famous economists like John Nash.”

Robert Mundell had three children with his first wife: William, Robyn, and Paul, who was killed in a car accident in 2018. Two of Paul’s four children, Alexander and Lily, joined the lawsuit. Paul’s third child, Alice, died in 2023, while his youngest child, Lucy, is not a party to the litigation.

Natsios-Mundell, who married the economist in 1998, lives in Italy and is not a U.S. citizen.

According to the complaint, Robert Mundell spent portions of his career on the faculties of Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Johns Hopkins. At his death, his retirement accounts at those institutions were collectively valued at more than $4 million and maintained by an outside entity known as TIAA. Natsios-Mundell claims 100 percent of those funds as her own, the lawsuit alleges.

Much of the dispute traces to 2013, when Robert Mundell suffered a “massive stroke” that left him severely impaired in his ability to “comprehend or formulate language,” to communicate through writing, and with limited “insight or awareness,” the plaintiffs claim.

Mundell was treated in New York and in 2014 flew back to Italy, where Natsios-Mundell became his sole caregiver, “upon whom he relied for all his needs to be provided in his best interest and to fulfill his intentions,” the complaint says.

After the stroke, Mundell, operating with reduced mental capacity, “expressed as best he could that he wanted all his assets split five ways,” the lawsuit says. William, Robyn, Paul, and Natsios-Mundell would each receive a share, as would Mundell and Natsios-Mundell’s only child, Nicholas.

But the lawsuit claims that Natsios-Mundell sought a greater portion of the money. In January 2014, before Mundell returned to Italy, she was allegedly named the sole beneficiary to his retirement accounts.

The change was made online, the complaint asserts, even though Mundell “did not have access to a computer or other electronic device” and was not capable of operating one.

Also that month, the suit says, Natsios-Mundell tried to have Mundell’s signature notarized on a power of attorney form and told the notary that her husband “was unable [to] move around or speak due to the stroke.” The notary allegedly refused, telling her wife that “he could lose his license.”

In 2019, Natsios-Mundell allegedly “prepared a New York State Short Form Power of Attorney under which she was named as agent for Dr. Mundell.” According to the lawsuit, this “purportedly” gave her the ability to make large gifts on Mundell’s behalf.

Before Mundell died, Natsios-Mundell allegedly “arranged” for roughly “$800,000.00 from a Swiss bank account owned by Dr. Mundell” to be transferred to an account in Italy in her name.

Natsios-Mundell could not be reached for comment, nor could Lily and William Mundell. Alexander Mundell declined to speak, while the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Gary Krim, declined to elaborate beyond the complaint.

The plaintiffs claim that Natsios-Mundell is flouting Italian law and denying them access to Mundell’s bank records.

They further allege that Natsios-Mundell and Nicholas are living at the 60,000-square-foot villa, which is “comprised of four large buildings with separate entrances.” The property was profiled in a 1992 edition of Architectural Digest. “It was designed by Baldassare Peruzzi for Pandolfo ‘the Magnificent’ Petrucci in the early years of the sixteenth century,” Robert Mundell gushed to the outlet.

“Despite the large size of the Villa and the land on which it is situated,” the lawsuit says, Natsios-Mundell won’t give the defendants access to the property or financial records they believe are housed inside.

Already, the plaintiffs claim, they have been forced to spend about $150,000 in “legal fees and related expenses, without having received any part of the estate due them.”

By Noah Kirsch, Justin Rohrlich


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