The ‘Toxic’ Legal Battle Over Zaha Hadid’s $132 Million Estate Has a Silver Lining: It Will Lead to the Establishment of a New Museum

A prolonged legal battle over the estate of late architect Zaha Hadid, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2016, was finally resolved in court this week.

The trouble began after Hadid’s will revealed the four executors of her estate: stained glass artist Brian Clarke, property developer Peter Palumbo, her niece Rana Hadid, and her business partner, Patrik Schumacher, who initiated the lawsuit by petitioning to be named the estate’s sole executor.

In a hearing conducted over Skype, the judge heard explosive allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against Schumacher as he decided whether Hadid’s former business partner should have veto power over the board of their architecture practice, Zaha Hadid Ltd.

The judge, who called the whole affair a “toxic dispute,” according to the Guardian, ruled against Schumacher’s veto request. He agreed with the other executors’ concerns that such an arrangement would raise conflicts of interest between what was best for the company and what was best for Schumacher personally. The estate’s assets were estimated at £67 million ($81 million) after Hadid’s death, but are now said to be worth £100 million ($132.8 million) thanks to a lucrative contract with Bulgari.

The four executors have agreed that the majority of Hadid’s assets will go to her charity, the Zaha Hadid Foundation, which will establish a museum and award Arab women architectural education scholarships. Schumacher will be the chair of the trust overseeing shares of Zaha Hadid Ltd.

Zaha Hadid poses outside the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London. Photo: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images.

But that news was largely overshadowed by the acrimonious hearing, at which executors Clarke, Hadid, and Palumbo produced a damning report claiming that Schumacher had entered into “clandestine” sexual relationships with several junior employees, including one with whom he had a child.

“[Schumacher] used his position to push for significant pay rises, promotions, and educational opportunities for staff he is in a romantic relationship with that are not based on merit and are in excess of what others are receiving,” the executors argued.

The other executors accused Schumacher of attempting to use his veto power to stymie their investigations into his possible sexual misbehavior, and noted a 2019 report about his history of abusing his veto power that detailed “numerous failings of corporate governance” at the firm. Schumacher allegedly vetoed paying the legal fees for these investigations as well.

“Zaha Hadid Architects is dismayed by the unfounded allegations being made against Patrik Schumacher,” the firm said in a statement. “The allegations are unproven, contested, and must be considered in the context of a long-running, acrimonious dispute between the trustees of Zaha’s estate.”

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