It’s going to be an awfully awkward Christmas for the late Kobe Bryant’s family – his widow, Vanessa, is being sued by her own mom for millions of dollars in financial support, a move Vanessa describes as extortion.
Vanessa’s relationship with her mother, Sofia Urbieta (68), also known as Sofia Laine, has soured horribly since Kobe’s death in January.
Sofia is suing her daughter for financial support, claiming in court papers that she worked as an unpaid “long-time personal assistant and nanny” for the family.
Kobe’s mother-in-law is claiming 18 years’ backpay – of $96 an hour – for babysitting her grandchildren, says Vanessa, as well as a Mercedes-Benz SUV, a house and $5 million (R75m).
Before his death in January, the basketball superstar had “promised to take care of” his mother-in-law “for the rest of her life”, Sofia claimed in court papers.
“Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant's promises did not see the light of day as he is now deceased, and Vanessa Bryant took each and every step she could to void and cancel all of Kobe Bryant's promises made to [Urbieta]. Vanessa Bryant did not intend to honour any of the Bryants' representations, agreements and promises at any stage,” Sofia’s court documents read.
Vanessa (38) responded by accusing her mother of “continuing to try and find ways to extort a financial windfall from our family”.
Vanessa described herself as a stay-at-home mother, insisting that she and Kobe had always been their daughters’ full-time caregivers.
“For nearly two decades, we arranged for my mother to live in our nearby properties, at no cost to her because she claimed that she didn't have money to buy her own home after her divorce,” Vanessa said on Instagram stories.
She added that she and her husband had decided it was best that Sofia not live in their home, and while she acknowledged that her mother did sometimes watch her children, she “did not take care of business issues or expenses”.
“She now wants to back charge me $96 per hour for supposedly working 12 hours a day for 18 years for watching her grandchildren,” Vanessa said. “In reality, she only occasionally babysat my older girls when they were toddlers.”
Slamming her mother’s claims as “obviously false”, Vanessa said she had tried to work things out with her mom.
“Earlier this year, I was looking for a new home for her and, a week later, [Sofia] went on television and gave an interview disparaging our family and making false accusations, while living rent-free in a gated apartment complex.
“Even after that betrayal, I was willing to provide my mother with monthly support for the rest of her life and that wasn't good enough. She instead contacted me through intermediaries (contrary to what she claims, my phone number hasn't changed) and demanded $5 million, a house and a Mercedes SUV.
“Because I did not give in to her hurtful threats and monetary requests, she has spiralled out of control and is making false and absurd claims. She is now trying to get more money than my husband and I ever spent to provide for her while he was alive.”
Sofia’s legal action is only the latest turn in the estranged mother and daughter’s ongoing war of words.
Sofia has accused Vanessa of kicking her out of her home and demanding she return the car that she’d been using.
“[Vanessa] told me, ‘I need you to get out of this house’. She also told me that she wanted her car, and she wants it now,” Sofia told Univision reporter Dave Valadez in an interview which aired in September.
Vanessa immediately hit back with a tell-all interview of her own revealing that her mom “hasn’t been physically present or emotionally supportive of my daughters or me” since the tragic death of her husband and daughter, Gianna.
“My husband and daughter passed away unexpectedly, and yet my mother had the audacity to do a television interview speaking negatively of me while shedding tears for a car and a house that weren’t in her name.
“She’s removed all her diamond jewellery, emptied the apartment I provided, and put away the furniture to make it look like she doesn’t have my support. My husband and I have supported her financially for the past 20 years, and continue to do so, in addition to her monthly alimony.
“Now I see what’s most important to my mother and it’s more than painful,” she said. “I hope that everything that’s coming out about our personal relationship ends here.”
Sources: dailymail.co.uk, people.com, eonline.com, dailytelegraph.com, univision.com