Robert De Niro cuts estranged wife's card expenses as actor claims fortune hit by coronavirus

Josie Ensor
Robert De Niro's lawyers say actor has been limited in his acting work by the virus - Getty

Actor Robert De Niro has claimed the coronavirus has decimated his finances and he “may only make” $7.5 million (£6m) this year, as he fought in court to limit his estranged wife’s expenses. 

The Irishman star’s former partner, Grace Hightower, has claimed in divorce proceedings taking place in Manhattan, New York, that De Niro “unfairly” cut her monthly credit card allowance from $100,000 to $50,000.

Lawyers for De Niro, 76, say he reduced Ms Hightower’s American Express card limit because he has taken a huge financial hit as Nobu and Greenwich Hotel, two restaurant chains he has stakes in, were forced to close or partially close during the Covid-19 lockdown.

He also says he has been limited in his acting work by the virus. Caroline Krauss, his attorney, said a film project that he was scheduled to begin filming this summer in Oklahoma has been put on hold.

Ms Hightower, 64, a singer and actress, also alleged that she and their children had been banned from an upstate New York estate where De Niro is staying during the pandemic.

US actor Al Pacino, US filmmaker Martin Scorsese and US actor Robert De Niro pose on the red carpet as they arrive to attend the international premiere of the film "The Irishman" - AFP

“His accounts and business manager says that the best case for Mr De Niro, if everything starts to turn around this year, … he is going to be lucky if he makes $7.5 million this year,” Ms Krauss said.

“These people, in spite of his robust earnings, have always spent more than he has earned, so this 76-year-old robust man couldn’t retire even if he wanted to because he can’t afford to keep up with his lifestyle expense,” Ms Krauss said, adding that De Niro has begun cutting back spending “dramatically.”

Kevin McDonough, acting for Ms Hightower, told the judge at the Manhattan Supreme Court: “the idea that Mr De Niro is tightening his belt is nonsense.”

“Mr De Niro has used the Covid pandemic - my words would be - to stick it to his wife financially,” Mr McDonough said.

“I’m not a believer that a man who has an admitted worth of $500 million and makes $30 million a year, all of a sudden in March he needs to cut down [spousal support] by 50 percent and ban her from the house,” he told the judge.

De Niro, who married Ms Hightower in 1997, filed for divorce in 2018. The couple have two children: Helen, eight, and Elliot, 21.

Ms Hightower has asked for half of De Niro;s estimated $500m fortune, despite a 2004 prenuptial agreement that his side insists limits her to a $6m apartment, $500,000 cash and $1m a year in alimony.

Matthew Cooper, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice, issued a temporary ruling that De Niro should keep Ms Hightower’s credit card limit at $50,000 a month and pay her $75,000 so she can find a summer home for their two children while De Niro and his children from another partner remain in his three-house estate.

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