In late 1997—years before he’d reach superrich status by owning the world’s most successful Mercedes-Benz dealership in Newport Beach, Fletcher Jones became enthralled with girlfriend Kimberly, whose $88,000 net worth at the time mostly consisted of jewelry gifts from her paramour, a man who’d by then amassed an $18 million fortune. Jones—well-known in Southern California for his television car commercials—wanted to marry the attractive Wyoming native more than two decades his junior. But the auto dealer felt palpable fear. He didn’t want to repeat mistakes made in a prior marriage that ended ugly with $40,000-per-month support payments. Six months before their July 4, 1998, wedding in Dana Point, Jones began suggesting a prenuptial agreement. By June, she’d agreed. He got to protect many of his accumulated assets, and she would win $250,000 paydays on each wedding anniversary.
But Jones’ aim for a non-acrimonious union eventually failed a second time, costing him millions of dollars, bitter feuds, public humiliation and a protracted eight-year legal nightmare in two states that may have finally ended in mid-July at the California Court of Appeal in Santa Ana. Kimberly, who has had 75 percent custody of their three kids, sought a monthly check for $1.1 million so they could continue to enjoy what Orange County Superior Court Judge James L. Waltz, who presided over the case, called “a lavish marital standard of living.” Waltz, a Republican appointee of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, refused the woman’s claim and won the backing of a three-justice appellate panel.
“Ted [Jones’ actual first name] is a high-income earner,” Waltz declared in a November 2015 ruling. “The court observed long ago Ted has the ability to pay any reasonable support the court establishes and has the ability to pay all reasonable and necessary attorney fees and cost for both sides. Ted’s ability to pay was never in dispute.”
According to court records reviewed by the Weekly, Jones’ auto-driven wealth topped $600 million three years ago. When they were together, the couple lived in a $30 million waterfront Newport Beach estate stationed on an exclusive island where a neighbor was Donald Bren, the owner of the Irvine Co. and Orange County’s richest billionaire. They traveled on their own 2003 Gulfstream GIV jet, for which they had two on-call pilots and a stewardess at the ready 24 hours a day, or on their huge yacht with two on-call captains. They employed multiple nannies, a butler, housekeepers, a personal trainer/security guard, a chauffeur, groundkeepers, a handyman, window washers, an interior painter, a family assistant and an $8,000-per-month live-in chef. For plants and flowers alone, they spent $5,300 each month.
They attended the Kentucky Derby and bought a $100,000 race horse, Classic Legacy. He gifted her cars (including a 2011 Ferrari, a 1957 Thunderbird, a 1956 Corvette and a 1932 Fiat truck) and jewelry worth more than a million dollars, including a $300,000 Cartier necklace. They bought a restaurant, Billy’s at the Beach, on Pacific Coast Highway. Her 40th-birthday party cost $468,204. Traveling around the globe, they stayed in the most luxurious suites at the world’s most exclusive hotels, including the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok and the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach. They spent more than $73,000 per month for their kids’ karate lessons, gifts, camping trips and chiropractic care. They built a five-bedroom, $7.5 million oceanfront retreat in Mexico staffed with a butler and two maids. They dined at pricy restaurants “at least seven times per week, if not more.” Even their animals enjoyed an extravagant $11,500 monthly price tag for pet care.
But living well off the fruits of car companies in California, Hawaii, Nevada and Illinois with more than a billion dollars in annual sales couldn’t save Jones’ relationship with Kimberly. In court filings, she says she kicked him out of their home in November 2011 because of his alleged chronic alcohol abuse, claiming he became “erratic, unpredictable and abusive” during drinking binges, a point she supplemented with pictures of Jones apparently passed out at bars. To see his kids once they’d separated, she made him agree to take breathalyzer and urine tests. Kimberly insists that mean-looking men wearing earpieces tailed her in public and that there was an attempt to plant a surveillance device in her home-theater equipment. She also reported in court that he once issued a startling declaration to her while they were flying on their jet and the topic of divorce came up. “You just remember one thing, Kimberly,” Jones allegedly said. “You are fucking dealing with the devil, and I am the devil.”
In Jones’ court filings, the auto salesman called the claims “completely false” and has maintained a calm, almost above-the-fray persona, hinting that Kimberly was inclined to paranoia and prone to melodrama. He asserted she became especially vengeful once she learned that he’d found a new partner, Asia Fellows. He claims she intentionally let the liquor license expire at Billy’s at the Beach, causing him to have to shut down the establishment for several days in hopes of avoiding a fine from state alcohol inspectors.
At least three other incidents frustrated him. Kimberly complained in court that he’d threaten the health of their medically disabled, oldest son by feeding him Goldfish crackers that might have caused a severe allergic reaction. In 2017, as the divorce case lingered, she became incensed that Jones objected to paying for her $153,882 private-charter jet trip to Maui and a demand that her entourage occupy a $7,100-per-night, two-bedroom, oceanfront suite; two club ocean-view rooms; one ocean-view prime room and one partial-ocean-view room at the Four Seasons. He argued three rooms were enough and that she should pay her own airfare. She also abandoned the $30 million Newport Beach mansion in which she was living for free to spend $72,500 per month on a lease for a 4.2-acre, hilltop Montecito estate.
The battle over spending landed in Waltz’s courtroom in 2015. CPA Jason Wegis, Kimberly’s expert, testified that Jones’ annual, pre-tax income was $53 million, which calculated to a guideline payment of more than $500,000 per month in child support. To duel against Wegis, Jones summoned CPA David Swan as his witness. Swan declared that his client’s income was $45.1 million, suggesting a guideline child-custody payment of $395,970 per month. The judge didn’t just find Swan “more credible”; he tossed out the guidelines altogether, issuing a downward departure of the amount.
“Whatever the debate over Ted’s income, this case presents overwhelming evidence that guideline child support, however calculated, would exceed the reasonable needs of the children,” Waltz opined. “The excessive funds over needs will only enrich Kimberly and is tantamount to a shifting of wealth.” The judge awarded her $120,000 per month for the three kids, stating, “This amount will enable the children to share in their father’s lifestyle.”
Kimberly, who emerged from the Jones marriage with a net worth topping $49.5 million, didn’t win her financial-subsidy claim for purported $452,000 in monthly living expenses. There will have to be a tightening of the proverbial belt buckle. Thanks to Waltz and the state appellate court, she must find a way to survive on $245,000 per month—or $2.94 million annually—in permanent support from her 68-year-old ex-husband.
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.