Steamy affair leads to costly lawsuit for millionaire oil tycoon

The Associated Press

BOSTON For a time, the love letters between millionaire Bill Koch and his girlfriend were so explicit that Koch's secretary suggested he set up a separate fax machine to receive them.

But now Koch and his girlfriend are on the outs: He wants her out of his apartment, and she a one-time international model isn't ready to pack up.

She likes the $2.5 million digs at the luxurious Four Seasons and has pulled out all the stops in a titillating court battle with the man who sponsored the women's team in the last America's Cup yacht race.

The case has included readings of her steamy fax messages, such as one offering ''Hot Love From Your X-rated Protestant Princess.''

The couple wouldn't exchange as much as a glance yesterday as they waited for the start of closing arguments in Koch's eviction suit against Catherine de Castelbajac (KASS-uhl-BYE-zhock).

For all the pillow talk, the issue before the 12-member Housing Court jury is whether de Castelbajac is a tenant at the condominium overlooking the Public Gardens or a licensee, and thus entitled to less protection under the law.

The difference could mean a big change in lifestyle for de Castelbajac, 43, who started life as Katherine Sherman of Santa Barbara, Calif., before becoming a Ford Agency model and wedding a French marquis.

A decision in her favor would also bolster de Castelbajac's palimony lawsuit seeking an unspecified amount from Koch.

De Castelbajac, who has two children, now lives largely on $80,000 a year in alimony from her ex-husband, fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. He also gave her a lump sum of $100,000 and a $2 million art collection.

Koch, 55, has said acceding to de Castelbajac would expose him to lawsuits from other women. His lawyers have portrayed her as a gold digger.

''She's sticking a gun in my face and demanding $5 million,'' he said in an interview. ''If I give in, I am a sitting duck for everybody else.''

Koch (pronounced ''coke'') is worth $700 million, most of it inherited from his family's Kansas oil business, according to Fortune magazine. In 1992, he won the America's Cup.

He recently won a ''good guy'' award from the National Women's Political Caucus for spending $69 million to finance a women's boat in this year's America's Cup.

So much for the dry details.

The nine-day trial has offered lurid details of a jet-set affair gone sour, with some of the faxes read aloud by the two combatants.

Koch and de Castelbajac met through friends at his Cape Cod mansion in 1992. He had a girlfriend at the time. She was still married. There was a passionate encounter in New York, a moonlit cruise off the Cape, pillow talk.

When she returned to France, their meetings grew less frequent, but no less erotic, according to the faxes she began sending some so explicit that Koch's secretary didn't want to see them anymore.

"My poor nerve endings are already hungry. You are creating such a wanton woman,'' de Castelbajac wrote from Paris. ''I can feel those kisses, and every inch of my body misses you.''

Koch's literary touch was a little clumsier: ''I cannot describe how much I look forward to seeing you again. It is beyond calculation by the largest computers.''

Their romance continued in Palm Beach, London, Venice, Paris, Monaco and other far-flung, glamorous locations.

''I want a quick obscene phone call this evening. No, I don't want to talk to you just obscenities,'' read one fax by de Castelbajac, author of a recent book about the history of makeup.

In 1993, de Castelbajac moved to Boston and eventually into Koch's double-sized, 3,700-square-foot condo. Koch lists his principal residence as Palm Beach and was living elsewhere at the time.

The faxes cooled considerably. They became quasi-legal communiques after Koch demanded she leave in February 1994.

''It is quite obvious that being your enemy is much more lucrative than being your friend,'' de Castelbajac wrote.

Koch says de Castelbajac spent thousands of dollars on luxury services from the hotel each month as much as $50,000 between February 1994 and when he cut her off last summer. He tried to change the locks in September.

Yesterday, the former lovers sat with their many lawyers as the Housing Court took up more typical business: A landlady was again refusing to remove lead paint from a building where children lived.

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