Von Bulow Would Divorce Wife

Stepchildren Reject Proposed Settlement of Suit

PROVIDENCE, R.I.--Claus von Bulow said yesterday he agreed to divorce his comatose wife provided his stepchildren dropped their civil suit against him and split their inheritance with his daughter, but the offer was rejected.

The Danish-born socialite, acquitted last year of twice trying to kill his heiress wife, Martha "Sunny" von Bulow, also said the offer included his renouncing of any claims on his estimated $14 million share of her $75 million gas and utilities fortune, her Newport mansion and their luxurious New York apartment.

"I agreed to any formula that would take me out of the picture and give Cosima her fair share, including divorce," von Bulow said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from the Fifth Avenue apartment. "It was turned down categorically. This is confidential information. I can't discuss it more."

Alexander von Auersperg and his sister, Annie-Laurie "Ala" von Auersperg Kneissl, Mrs. von Bulow's children by a previous marriage, have fought von Bulow's efforts to reinstate Cosima von Bulow's claim to her share of the $50 million estate left by Mrs. von Bulow's mother, the late Annie Laurie Crawford Aitken.

They have also sought to void von Bulow's interest in his wife's estate and force him to repay any money and return any property he has received from her estate since her first coma in 1979.

Before Mrs. Aitken's death--and before the 1985 retrial of von Bulow that ended in his acquittal--she disinherited Miss von Bulow because her granddaughter stood by her father during his four-year ordeal.

The stepchildren also have prevented their half-sister from using Clarendon Court, the palatial Newport mansion where Mrs. von Bulow twice became comatose during Christmas holiday visits.

Von Bulow said yesterday that he made the settlement offer about four months ago, and received the rejection two weeks ago.

Michael Armstrong, the New York lawyer who represents the stepchildren, told WJAR-TV of Providence that the offer was turned down because of loopholes he said would have allowed Miss von Bulow to funnel money to her father.

The stepchildren filed the $56 million civil suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan last year following von Bulow's acquittal by a Rhode Island Superior Court jury after a widely publicized nine-week trial.

The state Supreme Court had reversed von Bulow's 1982 conviction on charges he twice caused his wife to lapse into comas by injecting her with insulin. The second coma is considered irreversible.

Von Bulow, 59, on Wednesday won additional time to prepare for the suit, which, like the criminal case, contends he caused his wife's comas in a bid to kill her so he could inherit her riches and marry his mistress.

The case was continued until October 20, when von Bulow is to give a deposition. The deposition has been rescheduled several times because von Bulow is suffering from shingles, a painful skin condition.