Billionaire Nelson Peltz remains one of the most famous takeover artists in America: In recent years, the corporate raider (or "activist investor," as he prefers to be known) has battled for control of Wendy's, Heinz, and the candymaker Cadbury Schweppes. His hard-charging approach and tendency to ruffle feathers isn't just restricted to his professional life. Life inside Peltz's vast estate in Bedford is just as vicious, we hear, and the staff at the estate is subjected to such a dizzying amount of abuse, the Peltzes may be the worst family in America to work for.
The Peltz estate employs dozens of housekeepers, bodyguards, gardeners and maids. Of course, Peltz and his wife, Claudia, need lots of help: It's a big house. (See left.) Located in Bedford, High Winds occupies 130 acres and was previously the home of Reader's Digest co-founder DeWitt Wallace. In addition to a 27-room main mansion, the property also features a lake, waterfall, indoor hockey rink with Zamboni machine, and a flock of albino peacocks that can occasionally be seen running around the manicured grounds. (It's not his only lavish mansion: In Palm Beach, his French Regency-style home covers 44,000 square feet.) Peltz leads a predictably lavish lifestyle. He keeps two matching jets at a nearby airport, although he was forced to give up the helicopter that ferried him to the city a number of years ago, following a protracted legal battle with the town of Bedford.
Peltz is hardly the only one in tony Bedford living a luxe life. Life isn't quite as grand for the people who work at the estate, however. According to a source with knowledge of life inside the Peltz household, employees of the estate live in terror as they tend to the billionaire and his third wife, a former model with whom he has eight kids.
In one of the most egregious incidents, we hear Mrs. Peltz summoned a butler to the master bathroom after she discovered drops of urine on the toilet seat. She demanded the butler clean it up, which he did, although she then insisted that he clean the toilet seat again. And again. It was only after he'd cleaned the seat four times—"once more for luck," she said—that Mrs. Peltz, perhaps detecting some frustration on the butler's part, informed him that she didn't like his attitude and dismissed him. It was Easter Sunday.
According to our sources, this sort of behavior is nothing new. Peltz's youngest daughter routinely threatens maids that she will have her father fire them if they don't do as she asks. She's hardly bluffing. Her last nanny was reportedly hauled out of the house by two beefy bodyguards after the girl decided she didn't care much for her. Employee turnover at the estate is so high that new faces appear at the house on an almost weekly basis.
Few people who have worked at the house are inclined to talk about what they've seen. By all accounts, the combative mogul is obsessed with security and insists on having armed bodyguards on the premises—and by his side—at all times.
We contacted Peltz's reps for comment. A spokesperson for the billionaire described the charges "outrageous fabrications," but declined to elaborate in any detail because of possible pending legal action. A call to Peltz's office was not returned.