ALBANY — After more than a decade together, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his longtime girlfriend, Sandra Lee, announced Wednesday that they are ending their relationship.
The two confirmed the split in a statement.
“Over the recent past, we have realized that our lives have gone in different directions and our romantic relationship has turned into a deep friendship,” Cuomo and Lee, a Food Network personality and author, said.
Cuomo, 61, a third-term Democrat, had been largely living in Albany in recent months as rumors of their breakup swirled, after the couple put a house they shared in Westchester County on the market in May.
Lee, 53, who served as New York’s de facto first lady, had held a low profile during most of Cuomo’s first two terms in office, but emerged as an outspoken advocate for cancer screening after undergoing treatment for the disease.
A person with knowledge of the couple’s relationship said that Lee’s more public profile — and recent embrace of a more political role in her personal life — had caused some friction with the governor. In recent months, Lee had also been spending much of her time in Los Angeles, where she started her first successful business enterprise in the 1990s, caring for her ailing aunt and uncle.
The breakup occurs during the governor’s third term, after much of the team that had ushered Cuomo — and Lee — into Albany’s Executive Mansion in 2010 is no longer on his staff.
The couple was rarely seen together during Cuomo’s successful reelection campaign in 2018. Lee was not in attendance when he accepted the Democratic Party nod in May of that year; instead, she sent a video tribute.
Lee and Cuomo had been together since meeting at a party in 2005, the same year her four-year marriage to Bruce Karatz, the former chief executive of KB Home, ended in divorce. Cuomo was coming off his failed marriage to Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, which formally ended around that same time.
Lee, who rose to fame as a “semi-homemade” chef and home decorating specialist, became close with Cuomo’s three daughters from his marriage to Kennedy, and the couple expressed as much in their statement.
“We will always be family and are fully supportive of each other and dedicated to the girls,” they said. “Our personal lives remain personal and there will be no further comment.”
In statements released Wednesday, members of Cuomo’s family seemed saddened by the couple’s breakup.
“Sandy has always been a loving and generous presence in the lives of my three nieces, and our entire family. We all love her dearly,” Margaret Cuomo, the governor’s sister, said. “She will remain a sister and extraordinary friend to me, and a cherished aunt to my daughters.”
Cuomo, known as a hardworking chief executive, continued to work even after news broke of the split, putting out a statement on a banking act passed by the House of Representatives about an hour after acknowledging the breakup.