Document 62046

The Black
Sheepof
Broadway
Dumped by his first wife for Jerry Seinfeld,
Eric Nederlander is now getting terrible
reviews for his antics—and members of his
powerful theater family wish he’d exit stage left.
SETTING: November 2007, a luxury West Village duplex apartment,
nighttime.
A man and his wife are fighting about home renovations. Wife is nursing their one-month-old daughter. Man is angry that she’s not doing
enough around the house. The fight escalates and Wife puts the baby in
the crib. Man follows her into the nursery.
MAN: “I will smash your face in.”
Wife looks frightened and grabs her phone to call the police. Man exits the nursery and tells the maid to leave, along with an electrician, who is doing repairs at the house. When Man returns to the nursery,
Wife, frightened, has called her parents.
Her parents arrive. Wife slips past Man and down the stairs to unlock
the door for them. Man calls the police and says intruders are breaking
into their home. Father stands at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at his son-in-law.
FATHER: “Cut the bull. I’m coming upstairs.” his domestic drama sounds straight out of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?—but it’s a real-life
saga, pulled from New York State Supreme Court records
chronicling the war between Eric Nederlander and his soon-to-be
ex-wife, Lindsey Kupferman.
Nederlander, 46, is a scion of one of the most powerful families
on Broadway—in fact, they own the Nederlander Theatre, where
Virginia Woolf premiered in 1962. The Nederlander empire includes
nine Broadway theaters in NYC and more than 25 worldwide. But
it’s bad-boy Eric who gets much of the press—most of it worse than
the reviews for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
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He’s the cuckold who lost his wife to Jerry Seinfeld, the Broadway
producer with only one show to his name and a string of bad debts,
the pretender posing as a high-stakes theater player, according to
family friends. He’s been in divorce proceedings for more than four
years fighting a bitter custody battle with Kupferman over their
daughter. And earlier this year, he was thrown in jail for allegedly
waking up a girlfriend by yanking her hair. The girlfriend called the
cops. Eric called his daddy.
Daddy is attorney Robert Nederlander, a shareholder in the New
York Yankees who, as partial owner of his family’s vast theater holdings, is allegedly worth millions.
Robert Nederlander put up a $5,000 bond to spring his son from
jail, where he’d spent the night.
“Frankly, his father [is bailing] him out all the time. In this case
he had to literally bail him out,” says one seasoned Broadway producer who wouldn’t give his name because he works with the
Nederlander family often.
In the mythology of great American dynasties, Eric Nederlander
is perfectly cast in the role of black sheep. He’s a third-generation
member of the largest theater-owning family in the country. And
though he inherited the trappings of great wealth, he does not seem
to have inherited the work ethic that helped amass that fortune.
“There’s an unbelievable sense of entitlement there,” says the
producer. “No one knows what he does all day.”
Eric’s grandfather, David T. Nederlander, the son of a cigar maker,
founded the Nederlander organization in 1912 with a 99-year-lease
on the Detroit Opera House, where the Barrymores, Eddie Cantor,
Al Jolson and the Ziegfeld Follies all played. He went on to operate
clockwise from top left: Joe Corrigan/getty images; patrick mcmullan/patrickmcmullan.com (nederlander);
charles sykes/ap; John Lamparski/getty images; joe carrigan/getty images
b y s t e fa n i e c o h e n
Eric Nederlander is
a third-generation
member of the largest
theater-owning
family in the country.
Plagued by debts,
arrests and delusions
of grandeur, he is frequently at odds with
his influential kin.
“They don’t understand what’s between
the ears there,” says a
close family friend.
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Jimmy Sr. and Jimmy Jr., Eric’s uncle and cousin respectively (left), control the lion’s share of the Nederlander
fame and fortune today. Eric’s first wife, Jessica Sklar, left
him for comedian Jerry Seinfeld in 1998.
Broadway show, Play On!, a version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth
Night set in 1940s Harlem with music by Duke Ellington. It
was 1997. Play On! was, of course, mounted in a Nederlanderowned theater, the Brooks Atkinson. Sklar was often there,
says the musical’s coproducer, Mitchell Maxwell, and Eric
relied on her support and opinion.
It looked like the beginning of the good life. But as in any
good script, a jaw-dropping plot twist was waiting in Act 2.
Play On! got decent reviews and three Tony nominations
but wasn’t a hit. Maxwell says that because of his name, there
were a lot of expectations that Eric struggled to live up to.
“He was a lost boy,” Maxwell says. “He was a young man and
entered a world he wasn’t prepared for—and I don’t think he
was given the proper support or guidance he needed.”
At that time, says Maxwell, Eric had the backing of his
family. But when the show closed after only three months,
Maxwell believes, the more powerful Nederlanders decided
Eric wasn’t cut out for show biz. He hasn’t helmed a Broadway production since.
“I don’t think he really took the responsibilities with the
appropriate gravitas that one should when you are doing a
several-million-dollar musical,” Maxwell says. “Theater is a
tiny world. There are 100 people who run it, and your name
can only get you so far.”
Eric’s next big production was his wedding to Sklar. Their
invitation looked like a Playbill, according to the Daily News.
It read: Jessica Sklar (bride) is thrilled to be making her
Broadway debut. Jessica is looking forward to spending
the rest of her life with Eric Nederlander. Their lavish
1998 wedding, held at the Blantyre hotel in the Berkshires, was
“over the top, as only a Nederlander could do,” says a guest
who attended. “It was absolutely beautiful—except on the
wedding day itself, it poured.”
As can happen on Broadway, the lead was replaced early in
the run. Weeks after the couple returned from their honeymoon in Italy, Sklar was in the gossip pages for flirting with
Jerry Seinfeld at the Reebok Sports Club on Columbus. She
denied an affair, and Eric himself told the Daily News: “I know
that they see each other at the gym...They talk to each other on
the phone. I have no problem with it.”
from left: jemal countess/getty images; mark lennihan/ap
the Shubert and Cass theaters in Detroit, where headliners
such as Jack Benny and Bette Davis performed. D.T., as he was
known, had six children: Joseph, James, Harry, Robert, Fred
and the only girl, Frances.
D.T.’s second oldest, James N. Nederlander, known as
Jimmy Sr., dropped out of college to work at the Shubert
Theatre box office in Detroit. Soon he began producing
shows. After a stint in the Air Force, he opened a string of
theaters in the Midwest. In the 1960s he was often in New
York booking shows, he told Playbill in 2005.
“A theater colleague said, ‘Why don’t you acquire a theater
in New York?’ and I said, ‘Where?’ And he told me about the
Palace. So we went up to see the president of RKO, which
owned it, and I made a deal with him on the spot. And then
I went back to Detroit and raised the money. And we remodeled the Palace and opened it with Sweet Charity.”
He bought more theaters: the Minskoff, Neil Simon, the
Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, the Brooks Atkinson, the LuntFontanne, the Marquis, the Billy Rose (later renamed the
Neder­lander, after his father). He snapped up venues in Los
Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Tucson, Detroit and London.
All told, the Nederlander Organization is believed to be
worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Because the company
is privately held, it’s unclear how much of the pie each sibling
gets, but Jimmy Sr., who turns 90 on March 31, still runs the
show with his only son and heir, Jimmy Jr., Eric’s cousin.
Members of Eric’s immediate fam“He was... ily declare that their boy is an imporcuckolded tant part of this theatrical dynasty.
by a gigantic “My son, Eric, is a third-generation
TV star. Nederlander,” Robert Nederlander
He became wrote in an e-mail to Page Six Magaeven more zine. “He is an important part of our
of a lost soul overall business, including music and
after that. ” theater, which he has worked in for the
—Producer past 25 years. We value Eric’s integrity
Mitchell Maxwell
and his contributions.”
However, when asked what specifically Eric does for the
family business, Robert declined to elaborate. According to a
close family friend speaking on the condition of anonymity,
Eric shows up at the family’s offices “once in a blue moon.”
ric grew up in Franklin, Michigan. His mother,
Caren, was a psychologist. He has an older brother,
Robert Jr., who now runs Nederlander Worldwide,
which presents Broadway shows in China. Eric spent his high
school years at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield
Hills, where he was involved in the theater program.
“They force that on you,” he said of his family to The New
York Times in 2002. “One of my biggest disappointments was
the year I had the lead and got sick.”
He graduated from Boston University and moved to New
York, where he met 21-year-old Jessica Sklar, a pretty brunette from Oyster Bay, Long Island. The two lived together
in an apartment on 68th and Columbus and seemed devoted:
She worked in book publishing; he was producing his first
omehow Eric survived the maelstrom and found
love again. In 2000 he met Lindsey Kupferman, a
pretty blond singer studying clinical psychology,
when the two shared a summer rental in the Hamptons
with some other friends, according to the New York Times.
She had, of course, heard about the theater heir who was
dumped for the television star, but Kupferman said that at
the time she didn’t know Eric was the same guy. “Emotional
baggage is my business,” she said.
“Male post“When I met her, everything fell
partum
into place,” Eric told the Times.
depression
Eric was also trying to make it in
is probably
the downtown theater scene, rentsomething
ing out the Village Theater (now Le
I’m going
Poisson Rouge) on Bleecker Street.
through.”
He mounted two productions:
—Eric Nederlander,
2001’s Love, Janis, about Janis Jopin an e-mail excuse
about his behavior
lin, and 2003’s Dream a Little Dream,
to ex Lindsey
about the Mamas and the Papas.
Kupferman
Things seemed back to normal.
Kupferman was lovely, says Randal Myler, who directed
and wrote Love, Janis. He says the show was a well-run production that lasted for more than two years.
“We had a great time working on it. We ran for a few good
years,” he says. “That’s better than most Broadway shows.”
Kupferman, says Myler, “could not have been a nicer person,”
and the two seemed happy together.
But the blissful scene quickly began to fade. When Myler
and Nederlander went on to stage Dream a Little Dream, there
was an alleged falling out between Eric and the show’s star,
Denny Doherty, an original member of the Mamas and the Papas. The show closed after six months.
Soon the collectors came calling. Eric owed hundreds of
thousands of dollars to everyone from the video and sound
company to the musicians union, and even to the actors, the
Post reported at the time.
The theater owner, Irwin Stillman, called Eric “one of the
worst tenants,” and kicked him out of the theater in September 2003, saying he was always late with the rent.
But after Eric vacated the theater, he allegedly crept back in
the middle of the night and took a bunch of technical equipment. He came back days later and carted away 75 chairs, 30
tables, a water cooler and two speakers, Stillman told the
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Post in 2003. Nederlander denied the allegations and said
the property was his. The case was settled out of court.
At least Eric’s personal life was still rosy. In 2004 he married Kupferman at the Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Florida, under a firework-filled sky, according to the wedding
announcement in the Times.
And yet soon after their daughter, Mira, was born in
October 2007, the marriage began to sour. According to
court documents, Kupferman says Eric threw tantrums and
went on tirades. She paints a picture of a man who behaved
like a child when he didn’t get his way, and who scared her.
Although Eric called the police after their epic blowout in
the nursery, the couple stayed together, at least temporarily.
But just two weeks later there was another explosion, this
time over credit card debts Eric had allegedly accumulated.
He responded by ripping up the baby announcements they
had yet to mail. Frightened, Kupferman called the police.
When officers arrived, they advised her to take herself and
the baby elsewhere.
On December 17 Eric wrote Kupferman an e-mail to explain his behavior: “Male post-partum depression is probably
something I’m going through,” he wrote, according to court
documents. “This is not uncommon that a man can feel this
way during the early stages after a child is born…I love you.
Can we please talk and can you please come home and be with
me. I’m feeling very depressed that you and Mira aren’t here
and I need your help.”
But four days later Kupferman filed for divorce, and soon
after a judge granted an order of protection keeping Eric away
from her and giving her sole access to their home.
“I don’t think he’s the most violent person on the face of
the earth,” wrote Judge Harold Beeler in issuing the order.
“In fact, in many ways I think he’s a coward because he does
back off from what he says he’s going to do. But it’s very hard
to know where that line is with him and whether or not he
could go beyond that line...I think there are times where he
loses control.”
Eric has “a Jekyll and Hyde personality,” Kupferman’s attorney, Robert G. Smith, said in court.
“He has serious self-control and anger management issues.
I don’t know that he has ever in a meaningful way sought real
help,” adds Bonnie Rabin, who along with Martha Cohen Stine
is Kupferman’s new counsel.
Eric, who has denied Kupferman’s version of events, was
In 2004 Eric
married Lindsey
Kupferman, but
soon after their
daughter Mira was
born in 2007, their
relationship fell
apart because of
his temper.
patrick mcmullan/patrickmcmullan.com
He spoke too soon.
Sklar divorced Eric four months later and was suddenly seen
cavorting all over town with the sardonic funnyman. Day after
day, stories ran detailing Sklar’s every move with Seinfeld.
“[Eric] was a normal spoiled kid before that, and then he’s
on the cover of the papers as a cuckold day after day. I think
that’s a really bad combination: entitlement and humiliation,” says the Broadway producer.
Maxwell agrees. “He was always a lost soul, and anyone
who’s cuckolded like that, in New York City, by a gigantic
tele­vision star and humiliated every day in every paper
in America...he became even more of a lost soul after that.”
allowed to see his daughter for a few hours at a time, and only
with a nanny present. They’ve been duking it out in divorce
court ever since.
At the same time, Eric began characterizing himself as a
genuine player on Broadway, offering access to Nederlander
theaters without his relatives’ knowledge, says the family
friend. He even started competing against them. In 2007 the
entertainment giant Live Nation put its theatrical division—
roughly 40 theaters across the U.S. and Canada—up for sale.
Jimmy Sr. put in a bid, only to be outmatched by Eric, who
said he was backed by Goldman Sachs money. Eric’s offer
drove up the bidding for everyone else, including his own
uncle. Whether he had the money or not, he was eliminated
from the auction early.
“Those guys at Live Nation knew who the real Nederlanders are, and they flushed Eric out in the first round,” says the
friend. “They realized he was the wrong Nederlander.”
Asked how Jimmy Sr. and Jimmy Jr. felt about being outbid, the friend says they just shrug. “Was Senior surprised?
Not really. Not anymore. It was more like, ‘What are you
doing, kid?’ They don’t understand what’s between the ears
there.” Eventually the two Jimmys successfully bought the
rights to the Chicago share of theaters for $60 million.
But again, in 2009, Eric came out of nowhere with a sneak
attack, this time on Jimmy Jr., who had announced that
he’d bought the rights to make a songbook musical called
Thriller out of Michael Jackson’s work.
Eric declared that he, too, had a contract, signed years
before, to do a musical with the King of Pop.
“He said that he had his own contract with Jackson,” says
the family friend, incredulous. The musical, while still in
the works, was delayed by Jackson’s death. But Eric’s interference didn’t help either, says the source.
Eric’s erratic behavior was even on full display at family
events. He stole the spotlight at Jimmy Jr.’s 2008 wedding,
held at a Park Avenue church. Eric had been invited but declined the invitation, saying he was out of town. But just as
the bride and guests were arriving at the church, he was seen
on the sidewalk out front, wearing a T-shirt and shorts, fighting with his father. “Clearly he wanted everyone to know he
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steven hirsch/new york post
After Eric allegedly pulled new girlfriend Nancy
Okun’s hair while she slept, he was thrown in
jail and his name was splashed across the papers
again. Despite his many travails, a family friend
says, “the jail thing they weren’t used to.”
was in town, but had no interest in coming to the wedding,”
says the producer. “He wanted to make his presence felt.”
Despite his woes, Eric found love again, this time with
Nancy Okun, 31, a blond divorcée and mother of one who
looks remarkably like Kupferman. But it wasn’t long before
he was up to his old antics, according to reports.
In December 2010, Okun called the police to her W. 12th
Street apartment, alleging that Eric had been violent toward her, say sources close to the case.
Six months later, the pair was riding in a cab when Eric
allegedly became enraged. Okun told police he smashed
her face into the plexiglass divider and grabbed her arm as
she tried to get out of the taxi.
“Don’t get out of the cab!” he cried, “Please don’t do this to
me. They’ll take her away,” he allegedly pleaded, referring to
his daughter. Okun called the police anyway. The charge was
reduced from assault to disorderly conduct, but a judge issued
a limited order of protection. Eric was allowed to continue living with Okun but was ordered not to harass or frighten her.
In the middle of the night on January 12, prosecutors say,
Eric looked through Okun’s phone and found something he
didn’t like. He woke his girlfriend by yanking her hair and
growling: “You’re cheating on me.” Okun called the police,
who arrested Eric for violating the order of protection.
Suddenly Eric was in the papers
“There’s an again, looking disheveled after a
unbelievable night in the clink on charges of crimsense of
inal contempt. Even his family was
entitlement surprised at this turn.
there...No
“The jail thing they weren’t used
one knows
to,” says the family friend. “That part
what he does was a little strange for them, but they
all day.”
think ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ ”
—a Broadway
His court date is set for April 2, and
producer
his lawyer is set for a fight.
“The contempt charge is baseless,” says his criminal lawyer, Gerald Shargel. “We have asked the district attorney’s
office to dismiss the charge and have provided evidence
that supports our position. We will continue to cooperate
and are confident that the office will come to agree with our
view of the case. ”
Okun would not comment for this story, and Eric offered
a statement through his spokeswoman, Lisa Linden: “He
has a young daughter. He is a concerned father who strongly
believes [his silence] will serve his daughter’s best interests
now and in the future.”
But while he awaits the court hearing, many people have
already made up their minds.
“Every family has a black sheep, and Eric is this one’s,”
says a business associate of the family. “He tries to glom onto
something that might be a lot more successful than he is.”
Jimmys Sr. and Jr., meanwhile, have stopped conversations with him, says the family friend. “At this point, they
just say, ‘Duck!’ whenever something happens with him,” he
says. “They talk about it and shake their heads and go on to
the next thing.”
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