This Is Why Andrew Cuomo And Sandra Lee Broke Up

The year was 2005 and TV chef Sandra Lee had just split from billionaire businessman Bruce Karatz after four years of marriage. A few years prior, Andrew Cuomo's 13-year marriage to Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, fell apart in a what The New York Times described as an "an ugly, public divorce." Their hearts would soon mend, however, when a former aide to the New York governor introduced him to Lee at a Hamptons cocktail party.

As Lee's close friend, Colleen Schmidt, told the New York Times, "I remember [Lee] being — I don't want to say infatuated, because it sounds too schoolgirlish — but she was taken with him." That love at first sight turned into a 14-year romance. Lee became stepmom to Cuomo's kids — "She thinks of Andrew's girls as if they were her own biological kids," Schmidt said — and, in 2008, Cuomo moved into Lee's home in Mount Kisco, N.Y. They never walked down the aisle, but Schmidt was adamant that "they act as husband and wife. They do all the family things."

Many accounts portrayed their seemingly ideal relationship. "We never fight. He's so patient and mellow," Lee once told the The New York Times. Cuomo's sister, Margaret, agreed that Lee was his perfect match, telling the same outlet, "... not everyone will have his best interest in mind. She does. And that's a precious gift." Despite their oft-professed bliss, in September 2019, Lee and Cuomo announced their split. Here's what went wrong.

Did work get in the way for Andrew Cuomo and Sandra Lee?

Lee Gaskill once told The New York Times that his sister-in-law Sandra Lee is a "workaholic through and through" — and he's not kidding! Lee, who was born to a drug-addicted mother and absent father, was the oldest of five kids and, early on, she began cleaning houses to provide for her siblings. She eventually enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, but decided to drop out and start her own business. She launched Kurtain Kraft (a window decorating kit) and, as she recalled on Facebook, and found great success, particularly after the brand was "lucky enough to be able to launch the product on QVC." This led to a gig as a QVC host, which paved the way for her Food Network show, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. The series ran for 15 seasons, won her an Emmy, and inspired over two dozen books, which have sold over four million copies.

In the odd moment when Lee wasn't working, she was giving back. As she revealed to People in 2017, her schedule has always been packed. "I split my life very specifically," she noted. "A third of my life is spent doing business, a third of my life is spent on family and my friends, and a third of my life is spent on my philanthropy, which is my passion." Combined with Andrew Cuomo's high-profile political career, which Lee told The New York Times was "a grueling job," quality time was likely never on their side.

A serious illness rocked Sandra Lee and Andrew Cuomo's world

In March 2015, Sandra Lee's world was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early form of breast cancer. It was a wake-up call Cuomo acted on by clearing his schedule and booking them a trip to Turks and Caicos. "I was shocked and concerned," he told People, admitting, "I don't think I've left for more than a couple of nights since becoming governor, but I knew Sandy needed a break, and we needed to be in a place that allowed us to focus on her."

Lee made the difficult decision to undergo a double mastectomy and, just as the couple was maneuvering the health scare, an additional blow landed: Her diagnosis was leaked to the press. "I was struggling," she told Good Housekeeping, adding, "I felt like I was under a microscope while I was trying to deal with a very private part of my life." Cuomo did his best to be there for Lee. "He never wavered and has always really been available," she told People in June 2016, but it couldn't have been easy. As Lee noted, at the time, the governor was "closing the legislative session," which placed him "in the heat of all of his work, all work and focus."

Since May 2015, Lee has been cancer-free, but the illness remained top-of-mind. In October 2018, Cuomo confessed, "Sandy's experience with breast cancer was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through personally." 

Sandra Lee was thrust into the political arena

As the The New York Times noted in a 2018 profile on Lee, "Gov. Andrew Cuomo's longtime girlfriend had shunned the political spotlight. Cancer has changed that." Described as the "reluctant and unofficial first lady of New York," Lee now found herself taking meetings with governors and campaigning for all 50 states to pass the "No Excuses" bill (signed into law by Governor Cuomo in New York in 2016) to make breast cancer screenings more available, and affordable.

Despite only trying to use her political connections for good, Lee was dragged into the pettier side of politics in 2018 when Cuomo's Republican opponent in the New York gubernatorial race, Marcus J. Molinaro, suggested Lee's financial information be made public. "Attacks on families heat up N.Y. governor's race," The New York Times proclaimed. (Lee was actually exempt from disclosing her finances because she wasn't married to Cuomo.)

Even when she wasn't dealing directly with politics, Lee still couldn't escape it, as she repeatedly had to witness her partner being criticized for his work as governor. Speaking with The New York Times, Lee admitted, "It's hard to watch [people] be hard on someone you love. And know that they do everything right, every day, for everyone. It's not O.K." she said, adding, "I think if people saw the day to day, they would only say, 'Thank you.' That's the truth." 

Did Andrew Cuomo and Sandra Lee's spark slowly fade?

Rumors that there was trouble in paradise began circulating as early as May 2018 when the New York Post pointed out that Sandra Lee had been completely omitted from Andrew Cuomo's gubernatorial campaign website when he was seeking re-election.

As the outlet noted, there was a photo of Cuomo with ex-wife Kerry Kennedy and their three daughters, as well as mention of him living in Mount Kisco, N.Y. (Cuomo moved into Lee's home there in 2008), but not once did Lee's name come up. Political scientist Larry Sabato offered two possible explanations, neither of them particularly positive. "Maybe she doesn't want to be the first lady of New York," he said. "The other explanation is not so pretty — trying to hide the relationship. In politics, as in life, you can't have it both ways."

In early 2019, more rumors spiraled when Lee skipped Cuomo's State of the State address for the first time ever, but explained at a charity event gala she hosted instead (via Page Six), "I feel torn but I made a commitment I have to stick by." There was no such excuse when she jetted off to the Super Bowl in Atlanta, Ga. while Cuomo hosted a bash in New York. Finally, in May 2019, Lee listed her six-bedroom home, which, coincidentally, sits on Bittersweet Lane, for sale. Could it be that the spark between Cuomo and Lee simply fizzled out over time?

They were indeed living separate lives

All of the speculation surrounding the growing distance between Lee and Cuomo was confirmed to be spot-on by Page Six in May 2019. According to the outlet, the pair had been "living separate lives for a while" and had both moved out of Lee's Mount Kisco, N.Y. home upon listing it for sale. According to one inside source, Cuomo "moved out of her home in Westchester, and he has moved into the governor's mansion in Albany." Lee, meanwhile, began splitting her time between her condo in New York City's Battery Park and a home in California. Another insider noted, "It's been like that for months."

At the time, both Lee and Cuomo denied the rumors. While he assured that "nothing has changed — I live in Mt. Kisco and Albany," Lee took to Facebook to set the record straight. "Rumor mills abound. Page 6 knock it off!" she slammed, adding, "I'm not getting a divorce. I am not getting married. I am not pregnant. Do not have terminal cancer. My blood type is not B negative it's B positive! Seriously people," she chided.

Explaining the headline-making sale of her home, which ramped up rumors of a split, a friend of Lee's told People, "She's downsizing because it's too much work maintaining and she doesn't have staff and does it herself. She's also selling her place in Georgia. She's busy on so many different, new TV productions and caring for some sick family members."

Sandra Lee was focused on helping her ailing uncle

In trying to explain why she was spending so much time away from Andrew Cuomo, Sandra Lee confirmed her friend's previous explanation that she was indeed busy caring for a sick family member. As Lee told People in February 2020, she had an extremely important family obligation in California: helping her ailing uncle, Bill Singlehurst (above), who was "battling cancer and heart disease," to "cross items off of his bucket list." 

She reportedly began aiding him two years prior and no request was too big. In fact, the pair took a number of impressive trips together, from riding on the famed Orient Express train to visiting his birthplace, Hawaii. Their bucket list adventure culminated in December 2019 with what People described as "the sweetest of all."

"The last thing that he wanted to do was say his vows another time to my aunt Peggy so that when she's walking up the aisle and he sees how beautiful she is, he actually is mature enough to realize what he's getting," Lee told the tab. So she orchestrated "an exact remake of their wedding from 60 years ago," right down to the wedding dress the bride wore and the flowers she carried. Aww!

Andrew Cuomo started to to outshine Sandra Lee

When Andrew Cuomo and Sandra Lee first began dating in 2005, being governor of New York was only a dream for Cuomo. Lee, on the other hand, was a household name. In 2011, however, that began to change when Cuomo was elected governor and Lee's Semi-Homemade cooking show went off the air. While Lee initially appeared to relish the idea of stepping away from the spotlight, she later hinted at the fact that becoming Andrew Cuomo's plus-one wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

One such occasion was during a 2012 interview with The New York Times during which Lee kept being asked about her partner. She eventually snapped, "Can I ask a question? Is this an interview about me or Andrew?"

In January 2020, while attending the Clive Davis pre-Grammy party, she opened up to Entertainment Tonight about the breakup, noting, "It's been a very heavy couple years, so it's really nice to be on this side of it." She added, "John [Legend] was so good to me when I was going through my breakup with Andrew. ... We saw each other in Monaco and I said, 'You would know me with Andrew Cuomo' and he goes, 'I know you cause you're a great chef.' And I went, 'Oh my gosh, he knows who I am, thank you.'" Could it be that living in someone else's shadow finally took its toll on Lee?

They finally confirmed the split, but didn't rush on

Although they didn't get into specifics, Andrew Cuomo and Sandra Lee finally stopped denying the rumors and confirmed their split in September 2019. Releasing a joint statement, they explained, "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." The couple of 14 years added, "We will always be family and are fully supportive of each other and dedicated to the girls. Our personal lives remain personal and there will be no further comment."

So it seems that speculation of the couple drifting apart and leading separate lives wasn't wrong. Even so, Lee admitted to feeling "sad" and to swearing off dating for the foreseeable future. "I have no desire to date," she told Entertainment Tonight in January 2020, adding, "I just want to calm down and heal and be healthy and happy." In April 2020, Lee revealed that she and Cuomo still speak every day, telling The New York Times, "He's still my guy. Neither one of us, well as far as I know, has had a date." She concluded, "We share a home, we share children, we share friendship. I will protect him and be there for him until the day I die."

Despite Lee's portrayal of a perfectly amicable split, Cuomo's take on the matter was a tad milder with his rep telling Page Six, "The governor wishes her well."