Like Jerry Maguire, Richard “Dick” Snyder, the former C.E.O. of Simon & Schuster, who died, aged 90, on June 6, hated to be alone.

Unlike that film character, though, he actually ended up on his own, broken financially, physically, and psychologically by the very woman who was supposed to love him in spite of everything: his fourth wife.

Long before that, though—in comparatively happier times—you can sense Snyder’s unwillingness to be alone, and see where it would cause friction in his life. Rolling one wife into the next, he was unable to manage the realm of love the way he did the world of books.

For part of the eight years it took Snyder to get divorced from Joni Evans, his second wife of more than a dozen years and a celebrated publishing executive at S&S—their epic divorce proceedings filled some 2,500 pages of trial transcripts—he lived with Leighton Candler, a high-end Manhattan real-estate agent.

After that relationship ended, he started dating Laura Yorke, a young editor at S&S—in fact, the youngest editor—whom he met at a sales conference where she was presenting her books for the season. At the off-site, Snyder asked Yorke, who grew up on Park Avenue and went to Duke, to play tennis with him, which was “kind of intimidating,” Yorke recalls, because the entire time there was “a little peanut gallery clapping for Dick.” A month later, back in New York City, Snyder called and asked her out for a drink. “It just kind of went from there,” she says.

Though he wasn’t necessarily a people person, Richard Snyder wasn’t capable of being alone.

Snyder and Yorke wanted to get married not long thereafter, but his divorce from Evans still had not been finalized. No matter. When Snyder and Yorke were together at a publishing conference in California, in January 1992, Snyder called up the minister at a local Presbyterian Church. “I’d like you to marry me and my bride,” Snyder said, “but there are a few concerns.”

Snyder then explained to the minister, as Yorke recalls, “‘Well, I’m Jewish, and she’s Presbyterian.’ He said, ‘Fine.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m twice her age,’ and he said, ‘Fine.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m also still married.’”

That turned out to be “fine,” too, because the judge in the divorce proceedings with Evans had stipulated that if Yorke were not a financial beneficiary of the settlement agreement, then Snyder could get remarried. “So, that’s how that happened,” Yorke says. They were married for 12 years and had two sons together.

Although Yorke and Snyder eventually divorced—the love of Yorke’s life, she said, was Henry S. Lodge, the doctor and co-author of the best-selling Younger Next Year book series, who died in 2017, aged 57, of prostate cancer—she had mostly good things to say about Snyder in a recent conversation. “He was a deeply brilliant publisher and he revolutionized the industry.... He was the God of our industry. I was mesmerized by that. And he’s the father of my children.”

Yorke did concede that Snyder was “a difficult man”—a catchall to describe how taciturn and downright mean he could be—which seems to be a near-unanimous view of him. But there’s more to Snyder than that.

“There’s a tendency to see only the dark side of Dick,” the writer and editor Michael Korda, Snyder’s friend and colleague for decades, told The New York Times, “but he was genuinely a visionary who did to some degree revolutionize publishing. He was quite a radical innovator and led the way for book publishing from a privately owned cottage industry into a real business in which it was possible for people to work and make a living.”

The consensus about Dick Snyder the book publisher seems to be that he professionalized the business of books and made it profitable. In 1979, after he had been at S&S for nearly 20 years, the Times described him as “a spokesman for a more aggressive, businesslike approach to publishing: corporate rather than informal family management techniques, more professional marketing, slicker public relations and an ambitious program of growth.”

He published an amazing roster of writers, including Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Joan Didion, Philip Roth, Joseph Heller, David McCullough, and Mario Puzo. He hired legendary editors such as Korda, Alice Mayhew, and Nan Talese, and gave them plenty of room to run.

“I wouldn’t say he was the most charming man I ever met,” Phyllis Grann, the former C.E.O. of Penguin Putnam, tells me in an interview, “but he taught me a lot, and he gave me my opportunity.”

Dan Green, who worked for Snyder for more than 20 years at S&S, echoes what others have said about him: “He was a very difficult man, and sometimes very unattractive.” But, Green continues in an interview, “he became an extraordinary publisher, not because he read books, not because he had any real literary background, but rather because he was willing to surround himself with people and to give them space to use their best sense, their education, and their taste to publish and to promote all kinds of interesting and important works, and unique works. That’s why he was a wonderful publisher.”

The consensus about Snyder as a publisher seems to be that he made the business of books profitable.

Green adds, “He was a difficult man who could make life very difficult for all kinds of people.... He made life very difficult for me. He was often my enemy, but he gave me the space to thrive. And that was terrific.” Green left S&S in 1985 and went on to have other important jobs in publishing, including as C.E.O. of Grove Press. He is now president of the Pom Literary Agency.

Domestic Terrorism

It wasn’t until Snyder’s fourth and final marriage, to Hui Ying Liu, also known as Terresa Liu, that he would meet someone potentially as difficult as he was, if a complaint Snyder filed in a Manhattan court on May 17 of this year is to be believed.

Snyder and Liu met in 2004 at an engagement party for friends of Yorke’s, at the Upper East Side town house where Yorke and Snyder lived. As his marriage to Yorke was winding down, Snyder was on the prowl for a new girlfriend. He and Liu hit it off quickly and married in October 2005, shortly after his divorce from Yorke was finalized.

Snyder was 72, and Liu was 44. His net worth at the time was about $43.5 million, and hers was approximately $25,000, despite rumors alleging that she is the scion of a wealthy Chinese family. It was his fourth marriage and her second—she was said to have been married to a Greek shipping tycoon—and they executed a pre-nuptial agreement.

“You know I can’t be alone,” Snyder told Yorke at the time of his marriage to Liu.

Perhaps remaining single might have served Snyder better in the long run. According to the complaint, Liu lost interest in Snyder as he got older, his health deteriorated, and his wealth diminished. In 2018, when Snyder was 85, Liu finally filed for divorce. Allegedly “leveraging her complete control over all aspects” of Snyder’s life, including a “false threat” of putting him into personal bankruptcy, Liu negotiated a settlement agreement, in which she was awarded $10 million, or 75 percent of Snyder’s remaining net worth. That was far more than what she had agreed to in the pre-nuptial agreement, which already included, according to court filings, “a highly questionable designation of assets.” For reasons that are unclear, Snyder was not represented by legal counsel in the divorce proceeding.

Over the next four years, dissatisfied with the money received, or waiting to be received, from Snyder in the divorce settlement, Liu allegedly relieved him of another $3 million or so, according to the court documents, “under the guise of helping” him manage his life after the divorce, and by continuously dangling the idea that she would get back together with him.

(Liu did not respond to a written request for comment left with her Manhattan doorman at 106 Central Park South, known as Trump Parc Condominium, where she has a 26th-floor apartment, according to the complaint. At the time of this article’s publication, she also had not responded to the complaint in court. The case may or may not continue, given Snyder’s death. Snyder’s attorney, Jordan Weinreich, declined to comment on the status of the litigation.)

“Like The Grinch who left no crumb or morsel behind,” the complaint says, “she even emptied his frequent flyer account of over 300,000 miles days before abruptly abandoning [Snyder].” Liu traveled frequently to her home in Gstaad, Switzerland—she bought it with her own money, despite “never having a job,” according to the complaint—and to Greece, Italy, and England. At each of these locations, according to court papers, Liu “helped herself to large withdrawals of cash” using Snyder’s A.T.M. card.

And regardless of how far she fled from Snyder, Liu made sure never to completely separate herself from him. She allegedly convinced Snyder’s accountant to continue to file a joint tax return after their divorce, resulting in Snyder paying her federal and state income taxes and tax-preparation fees.

She also continued to periodically stay in the Manhattan home she and Snyder had shared, and where they first met. As part of their divorce, he had agreed to sell the eight-bedroom, 11,000-square-foot town house at 120 East 78th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues, with the proceeds from the sale being used to fund a portion of their settlement. Built in 1930, the town house was designed by architects Delano & Aldrich, who also designed the Knickerbocker Club, on Fifth Avenue, and St. Bernard’s School, on East 98th Street. Snyder had bought the home for almost $5 million in 1996. In 2021, it was listed for $17 million.

According to the complaint, Liu lived there rent-free and did not care for her ailing ex-husband, instead leaving that responsibility to a live-in housekeeper. According to the complaint, the housekeeper “would grow into a capable and devoted caregiver but had no training or background in health care whatsoever.”

“Like The Grinch, who left no crumb or morsel behind, she even emptied his frequent flyer account of over 300,000 miles before abruptly abandoning [Snyder].”

In October 2020, Liu returned to the town house to find Snyder lying unresponsive in an upstairs bathroom. She called 911, and paramedics took Snyder to Weill-Cornell Medical Center, where he almost died and spent the next two months suffering from sepsis. Allegedly, Liu did not visit him once.

When they met, Snyder was 72 and Hui Ying Liu was 44. His net worth was about $43.5 million; hers was roughly $25,000.

While in the hospital, Snyder reached out to his son, Matthew, the child from his first marriage, to Ruth Freund; Matthew is a literary agent at CAA. “Matthew hadn’t spoken to his father in a dozen years,” Yorke explained, “and got a call, as next of kin, saying, ‘Your father has sepsis, and he’s going to die in three to four months.’ And that’s how he got back involved.” (Disclosure: Matthew Snyder was formerly my agent at CAA.)

According to the complaint, Matthew reached out to Liu to find out what had happened. She told Matthew that she and his father were divorced, she didn’t love him, and he still owed her $5 million as part of the divorce settlement. As soon as she got her money, she allegedly told Matthew, she was out of there.

Matthew learned that the sepsis resulted from “an entirely preventable lack of routine dental care,” according to the complaint. Though, it’s possible that Snyder’s failure to visit the dentist had more to do with his anxiety about being exposed to the coronavirus than it did neglect by Liu, according to a source close to Snyder, who also says, “I think she did care for [him] in some way. And I think she probably felt that she was taking care of him.”

Matthew also discovered that his father was unwittingly the defendant in two legal actions. He had been fined some $65,000 by the City of New York for failing to make necessary repairs to the façade of the town house, and he was being pursued by a debt-collection agency because he’d been unresponsive. Matthew dealt with the various messes. But to resolve them, the elder Snyder had to take on an additional $1.5 million in debt.

In July 2021, with Snyder recovered from sepsis and re-installed in his town house, Matthew flew to New York to spend time with his father. Shortly after Matthew arrived, Liu left for Europe without explaining why or when she would return, causing Snyder “enormous stress and anxiety,” according to the complaint. Matthew allegedly sent Liu an e-mail dictated by his father, “full of flattery,” blaming himself for her absences and “beseeching” her to return. She did not respond to the e-mail, nor to Snyder’s numerous phone calls.

In late 2021, according to the complaint, Liu told Matthew that she wanted him to move his father to Los Angeles, where Matthew lived, so it would be easier to sell the town house and she could collect the $5 million Snyder still owed her. It would also put the burden of caring for him on Matthew, instead of, at least superficially, on Liu. Matthew acceded to her request and found his father a rental apartment in an expensive high-rise at 10000 Santa Monica Boulevard, in Los Angeles.

The expectation, apparently, was that Snyder and Liu would live there together, because both of their names were on the lease. They moved in on February 11, 2022, but six days later, Liu returned to New York, claiming she had to deal with a “major leak” in the town house. Soon enough, though, she was in Gstaad. Using Snyder’s A.T.M. card, she allegedly withdrew $1,147 in Swiss francs from a cash machine on March 7, and another $1,141 the following day. Her sudden departure from Los Angeles caused Snyder a new bout of “tremendous emotional distress,” according to the complaint.

Now that he and his father were living in the same city, Matthew started properly looking after Snyder. “[The] first stop was a dentist,” according to court documents. Snyder was missing many teeth and had gotten infections around the nubs that remained. There were two surgeries to resolve the problem, and Matthew arranged for a set of false teeth to be made for his father. A rash of skin cancers on Snyder’s face had also been left to grow, untreated. The best the doctors in Los Angeles could do was to “hold the cancers at bay,” causing Snyder “discomfort” and “disfigurement.”

According to a general practitioner who treated Snyder upon his arrival in Los Angeles, he had a “deplorable state of health.” But, over time and with Matthew’s attention, the complaint says, things generally improved and stabilized.

(Matthew Snyder declined to comment for this article. In an e-mail, he wrote that he had hoped the complaint would be filed under seal, but there were “insufficient grounds” to do so under New York State law. “I consider it a private matter,” he wrote.)

Meanwhile, Liu’s occasional return visits to Los Angeles were the stuff of high drama. In late April 2022, she came back without warning and shared with both Snyders her view that the New York town house would soon be sold. (It wasn’t for another six months.) On May 10, she told Matthew that she had accepted a full-time job running her family’s business, buying real estate in China and Vietnam. (The job, according to the complaint, was fictitious.) On September 14, “her first actions were to take [Snyder] out for oysters and then again for sushi,” allegedly, “re-establishing her emotional control of [Snyder] despite her many betrayals with the promise of a continuing relationship (as well as causing him to be violently ill for a week.)” There were also reports of Liu verbally abusing and browbeating Snyder, according to the complaint.

Liu told Matthew that she and his father were divorced, she didn’t love him, and he still owed her $5 million as part of the divorce settlement. As soon as she got her money, she told Matthew, she was out of there.

On October 6, an offer was finally made on the New York town house. With Liu’s persuading, Snyder accepted it and granted her power of attorney. A month later, a contract was executed at a price of $9.25 million, a 45 percent discount from the asking price of $17 million.

In the week following the sale, there was much consternation about who would get the proceeds. Liu told Matthew she expected to get nearly $4.9 million, pursuant to the divorce settlement from 2018. But, according to court documents, the elder Snyder had no recollection of their previous agreement. He was “shocked, appalled and furious.”

A New York divorce attorney advised Matthew that the notary’s signature on the divorce settlement agreement was illegible and did not have a proper stamp, and, therefore, under New York State law, would not be valid. So, Snyder instructed the real-estate attorney to send him the proceeds from the sale, as sole owner of the house. It would go into a new bank account that Matthew had set up for his father because Liu had allegedly managed to control all his other, existing bank accounts.

She had one more trick up her sleeve, though, according to the complaint. The morning of November 16, Snyder awoke to find her in his L.A. apartment, having taken the first flight from New York. Though Liu initially claimed she wasn’t there for the money—she allegedly told Snyder she intended to live with him for at least a year and was considering leasing a car—by the next day, she had threatened to block the sale of the town house.

Knowing that would upset the various legal settlements Matthew had previously arranged for him, Snyder finally broke, agreeing to give Liu more than half of the proceeds from the sale of the town house. Matthew told his father he would not stand in the way of his decision, if that’s what he wanted to do.

When the sale closed the next day, on November 20, Snyder wired Liu $4.8 million. Fewer than two weeks later, “she packed her belongings and left without saying goodbye,” according to the complaint. Liu never responded to Snyder’s numerous phone calls “seeking closure.”

Though the lines of communication were closed, the bank accounts remained open. According to the complaint, as Matthew kept track of his father’s finances, he discovered that Liu kept taking money out of Snyder’s accounts—roughly at a clip of $2,000 every few days—until he was finally able to revoke her access at the end of 2022.

All told, according to the complaint, Liu had siphoned at least $3 million from Snyder’s Citibank checking account, through a combination of A.T.M. withdrawals, wire transfers, and checks made out to cash, on which she allegedly forged his signature. Ironically, had Liu not divorced Snyder in 2018, as his sole beneficiary, she would have gotten everything he had left after his death. “At bottom,” the complaint alleges, Liu “took advantage of her ex-husband when he became ill and got away with it for years because of his disability.”

One has to wonder whether Snyder almost invited the con on himself, which is not to say that he deserved it. In a 1979 interview with The New York Times, he said, “The people who succeed are those who have the greatest commitment. Maybe it’s a neurotic commitment I look for.... You want someone who does something that is impossible and then is worried the next day that he can’t duplicate it.” In more ways than one, Liu proved to be that person. She was hungry, unwavering, and persistent—her interests just happened to run counter to Snyder’s.

Three weeks after filing the complaint against Liu, on June 6, Snyder died at his apartment in Los Angeles. In published reports, Matthew said the cause was heart failure, but maybe it was just a broken heart.

William D. Cohan is a Writer at Large at AIR MAIL and the author of such best-selling books as The Last Tycoons, House of Cards, and The Price of Silence. He is a founding partner of Puck. His latest book, Power Failure, is out now