The mesmerizing biography of one of the world's richest, most intriguing women—philanthropist and socialite Lily Safra
In the early morning of December 3, 1999, Lily Safra stood shivering in her nightgown on the grounds outside her sumptuous Monte Carlo penthouse where, just hours before, her fourth husband, reclusive billionaire Edmond Safra, died in a fire. An American nurse employed by the Safra family was eventually convicted of the arson death. Overnight, Lily became one of the wealthiest widows in the world.
The Brazilian-born Lily Safra was no stranger to tragedy. In 1969, her second husband, the Brazilian multimillionaire Alfredo Monteverde, died from two gunshots to the chest. The Brazilian authorities ruled it a suicide. In 1989, her beloved eldest son and four-year-old grandson died in a car accident. But just who is Lily Safra? Despite having become a fixture in society columns for her generous charity work and lavish parties, the elegant and enigmatic widow has remained in the background.
Gilded Lily tells Lily Safra's story for the first time. Using archival sources, court documents, and interviews with childhood friends and former employees in South America, investigative journalist Isabel Vincent chronicle's Safra's rise from humble origins in Brazil to fabled wealth in London, New York, and Monaco.
A skillfully executed expos of the life of the Brazilian-born widow of Monaco banker Edmond Safra, who died in a suspicious fire in his Monte Carlo penthouse in 1999, delineates the paranoid desperation of the very rich. Journalist Vincent (See No Evil) delves fearlessly into the messy, lucky, upwardly mobile climb of four-time-married Lily Safra nee Watkins, the daughter of a native Londoner who made his fortune in railroads. Spoiled, pampered, more socially adept than beautiful, Lily first married the wealthy hosiery manufacturer Mario Cohen in 1952, when she was 17, then divorced him after 13 years and three children to marry the Rio millionaire Alfredo Monteverde. With his dubious suicide in 1969 (manic depressive, he supposedly shot himself twice in the chest while napping in his home), Lily inherited $300 million, much of it squirreled away by the discreet Syrian-born Sephardic Jewish banking brothers, Joseph, Moise, and Edmond Safra, the widow relying on the last to extricate herself from the Monteverde family's challenging the will. A romance developed between Edmond, who moved fluidly among his banking enterprises in Geneva, New York, and London, and Lily. Now members of the "billionaire's club," regularly noted approvingly in gossip columns, as Vincent shows through great reporting, Lily and Edmond Safra entertained like royalty, yet found their wealth could not shield them from family tragedies and threats to personal security.
Amazing read. Mind blowing if one stops to consider what the author is suggesting (she never actually comes out and says it because of lily's deep pockets and litigious nature). If you are a fan of Dominick Dunne's writing style, this book is for you.