Dispute over ownership of part of Bullitt estate settled


A DISPUTE over the ownership of some of the contents of a stately home sold by late American millionairess Anne Moen Bullitt to businessman Jim Mansfield was settled at the High Court yesterday.

The case related to ownership of a number of items from the millionairess’s estate of Palmerstown House and Stud in Co Kildare, including a work of art by Picasso, a Ming vase and two pistols given to George Washington by one of his generals in the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette, and later given to Ms Bullitt’s father by descendants of the general.

The action opened briefly on Thursday before being adjourned to facilitate talks between the sides and Ms Justice Mary Laffoy was told yesterday it had been settled and the only order required was to strike it out.

The judge adjourned the case to March 13th for the formal striking out order to be made.

Ms Justice Laffoy said one “little note of sadness” about not having a hearing was that she would not now have an opportunity to hear about the relationship between the inventor of psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, and Ms Bullitt’s late father William C Bullitt who had collaborated with Freud on a controversial book called Thomas Woodrow Wilson – A Psychological Study. Bill Shipsey SC, for the Bullitt estate, said that information may be in Yale University where Mr Bullitt’s papers were sent some years ago.

In the proceedings, US attorney Robert M Pennoyer, the personal representative of the estate of Ms Bullitt, who became a ward of court in 2000 and died in 2007, sought a declaration that the contents of Palmerstown House and Stud, set on 700 acres in Naas were her property. He also sought an order directing Mr Mansfield’s company to make a full inventory of the contents, which allegedly include works of art including a Picasso, a Ming vase, a Japanese screen and the two pistols.

Among the claims was that a IR£500,000 (€635,000) deposit which was allegedly to be paid by Mr Mansfield as part of the sale of the house and property for IR£10 million (€12.7 million) in 1999 had been retained by a company owned by Mr Mansfield and should be returned to the estate.

The case was brought against Mr Mansfield and a company of which he is beneficial owner, Bridford Developments Ltd, formerly known as Bumper Developments. It was also against a company called Bridford Properties Ltd, formerly known as the Meath Thoroughbred Breeders, both companies with registered offices at Keatings Park, Rathcoole.

The defendants had denied the claims.

The court was told Ms Bullitt, an only child, was one of Ireland’s first female horse trainers and breeders and ran her business successfully until the 1990s when her health also deteriorated.

Her eyesight became poor and she ended up living in three rooms in the stately mansion in Co Kildare.

In 1998, she agreed a IR£10 million deal to sell Palmerstown House and Stud to Mr Mansfield “to the consternation” of her financial advisers who had already agreed to sell it to another developer for IR£8.2 million, the court was told.

Her advisers became so concerned about her ability to manage her affairs they got an order in 2000 making her a ward of court, Mr Shipsey also said.