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Billionaire Pinault denies asking supermodel Linda Evangelista to abort their child


Linda Evangelista  at the Manhattan Family Court.

Linda Evangelista at the Manhattan Family Court.

Linda Evangelista at the Manhattan Family Court.

WHEN supermodel Linda Evangelista told French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault she was pregnant with his child, he asked her to get an abortion, her attorney claimed on the first day of a child support trial in Manhattan.

Pinault, 49, who is married to Hollywood actress Salma Hayek, denied that charge but testified he told Evangelista that "if she were to have a child (they) might not have a relationship."

With that their four-month relationship - in which he said the couple only actually saw each other seven days - came to an end. "I didn't even know her very much," Pinault said during an acrimonious afternoon hearing.

The case has attracted widespread attention after it was reported Evangelista was seeking in the region of $46,000 a month in child support for their son Augustin, 5. Her attorney William Beslow said that figure was inaccurate, while acknowledging that the unspecified sum she would be seeking is "substantial."

Beslow contends Pinault is worth more than $3 billion. Pinault's attorney, David Aronson, calculated that Evangelista's annual income averaged $1.8 million for the four years leading up to her filing for support in 2010.

"Is Mr. Pinault a comfortable person of substantial means?" Aronson asked in opening arguments. "The answer is yes. But Ms. Evangelista is also a person of substantial means."

Evangelista, 46, supported Augustin for the first several years of his life. She decided to take Pinault to court after private child-support negotiations failed and her multi-year contract as a spokesmodel for L'Oreal Paris cosmetics ended in 2010, Beslow said.

One of the modeling world's most recognisable faces, Evangelista arrived about 15 minutes late to court wearing a black skirt, a floral-patterned blouse and beige court shoes. She barely glanced at Pinault as the trial got underway.

During opening arguments, both lawyers sought to portray their clients as victims of each other's public relations smear campaigns. Pinault testified he first received a child support request from Evangelista in 2007.

"I asked, 'What do you have in mind?', he said. "I received a demand. It was not reasonable, I made a counterproposal."

He said the next time he heard from Evangelista was 2010, when she filed the support case.

Augustin is Evangelista's only child. Pinault has two children from a previous marriage, and a daughter, Valentina, by Hayek.

The trial is expected to last several days, after which a surrogate judge will decide on the amount of child support due to Evangelista. Either side may appeal that ruling to a family court judge.