It’s one of the great social conundrums: how to divide friends following a relationship break-up.
And when those relationships involve high-profile people, the terrain becomes decidedly more explosive for those of us trying to avoid stepping on any social landmines.
But along with the joint bank accounts, the property portfolios, the superyachts, private jets, off-shore investments and the children, fighting for custody of a couple’s shared friends can easily turn into a nightmare.
In recent months high-profile relationship breakdowns have been making plenty of headlines.
The demise to James Packer and Mariah Carey’s not-quite-so-shocking break-up made headlines around the world as intimate details of their relationship were flung into the public domain amid claims and counter-claims.
The break-up of Karl Stefanovic and his wife of 21 years, Cassandra Thorburn, was a major shock, not in the least to Thorburn. Then there was the end of the picture-perfect marriage of millionaire Sydney businessman Anthony Bell and his model wife, the glamorous Kelly Landry.
And they all have something in common: the fallout has been immense for those who knew them best.
“Look, I love them both … a lot,” one of Bell and Landry’s closest friends told PS recently.
“It is really hard but in the end we have tried not to take sides because the way the whole thing has been handled has been incredibly painful for everyone … it shouldn’t be in the papers, it should be in private.”
And yet it is some of those “friends” who are the very reason why the bust-ups are in the media, with various camps intentionally leaking usually damaging titbits to journalists in order to gain the upper hand in a hopeless game of schadenfreude.
Loyalties are tested, though allegiances were clearly on display at dinner a few weeks back in Sydney to celebrate Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal winning the Sydney to Hobart, especially from Alan Jones, who wrote a speech from his sick bed that was read out to the packed room. Jones, one of the most influential voices in the country, effectively declared Bell was a great man.
No such praise was extended to the woman who embraced Bell at the finish line just months ago or who had been by his side in the public eye. Indeed Kelly Landry had become persona non grata in Bell’s dominion.
One of Stefanovic and Thorburn’s friends told PS in the months following the bust-up: “What are we supposed to do? We’ve known them for ever, then suddenly Karl walks out … we know him as one half of a relationship. It’s like he walked out on us too. It is incredibly difficult not to take sides.”
When James Packer broke up with his second wife, Erica Packer, the social dynamics of Sydney changed over night.
PS was told by a friend of the couple at the time: “It is very difficult. I went to Erica’s New Year’s Eve party after they split [held at the couple’s ill-fated marital home in Vaucluse] and now James won’t speak to me.” Today Packer says he remains close to his ex-wife, the mother of his four children.
While Rupert Murodch and his former wife Wendi have been quick to move on with their romantic lives (he married Jerry Hall while Wendi remains smitten with a hunky underwear model half her age), the carve up of their collective friends has had some extraordinary ramifications.
Wendi remains intimately close to Ivanka Trump, one of the godmothers of her two daughters with Murdoch, Grace and Chloe, and considered by many as the de facto First Lady of the United States.
Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch has been busy courting the new President Donald Trump.
Indeed as Pat Benatar sang, Love Is A Battlefield, though it is not always clear who is on whose side.