Ruth Madoff chooses son over husband Bernie
Former financier Bernie Madoff, who is serving a 150-year prison sentence for defrauding investors of billions of dollars, has lost not just his money and his freedom but, more painfully, a son -- to suicide. Now it's being reported that he might lose his wife as well.
Madoff biographer Diana Henriques sat down with CBS on Monday morning to discuss the news that Ruth Madoff is severing ties with her husband in an effort to reconnect with the couple's surviving son, Andrew. Their other son, Mark, committed suicide last year; he was found dead on the second anniversary of his father's arrest.
To put this news in some sort of context, understand that Ruth Madoff, 71, was not a so-called trophy wife who teamed up with Bernie in his high-flying years. Rather, she met the man who would become her husband at Far Rockaway High School in Long Island in the 1950s, marrying him when she was just 18.
And the two have much in common. She has an interest in the financial markets, working as a stock broker on Wall Street and then for her husband's firm.
But when Madoff's 20-year-long Ponzi scheme was revealed in 2008, she claimed total ignorance -- and horror.
"Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused," she said in a statement at the time. "The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years."
Bernie's two sons cut off all contact with their father after his arrest, and reportedly gave their mother an ultimatum: Choose us or choose him. According to the New York Post, she originally chose her sons, but then went back to her husband after he was beaten in jail in 2009.
"She fell in love with him when she was 13, married when she was 18," Henriques told CBS. "It was a 50-year romance, and she simply couldn't leave him."
Her sons were furious. After Mark committed suicide, his wife reportedly turned Ruth away from the funeral.
According to Henriques, Ruth is now making an effort to fully split from her husband of more than 50 years.
"But for all practical purposes, the Madoff marriage was split apart by that 150-year prison sentence that will keep Madoff behind bars for the rest of his life," Henriques said. "So my sense is that Ruth is now focusing all her efforts on rebuilding a relationship with her surviving son, Andrew, and her grandchildren."
Henriques said that she is encouraged to hear that Andrew may be open to a reconciliation. She also said she expects Bernie to be supportive of his wife's decision to choose his son and grandchildren over him.
"He cares very much about her," she said.
Photo: Ruth Madoff photographed in 2009. Credit: Mary Altaffer/Associated Press.