Coming from poverty in Pigeon Hollow, West Virginia, the former Pete Cooney, now known as millionaire tycoon Palmer Cortlandt, settled in Pine Valley in 1979. He and his daughter Nina moved in and established Cortlandt Manor next door to Phoebe Tyler. A controlling man, he dictated his daughter’s life, stopping at nothing to prevent her relationship with young Dr. Cliff Warner. He led Nina to believe her mother, Daisy, was dead, when in fact she was very much alive, and resurfaced a few years later as Monique Jonvil, remaining the only woman who ever truly understood Palmer.
In 1980, Palmer won the affections of the former prostitute Donna Beck and they were married. The marriage collapsed when Donna became pregnant and Palmer, assuming he was sterile from a polo accident years before, accused her of infidelity.
The Chandlers arrived in Pine Valley in 1984, and Palmer’s WV roots were exposed. Years earlier, Palmer had impregnated Adam Chandler’s sister Lottie and abandoned her. Lottie gave birth to Ross, the son that Palmer had never known he’d had. After discovering the existence of this now-adult son,
Palmer invited Ross's wicked ex-wife, Cynthia Preston, to Ross’ wedding to Ellen Dalton and eventually wound up marrying her himself, although the marriage did not last.
Palmer’s next wife was his nurse Natalie Hunter, who had agreed to marry him after she became frustrated with her lover, Ross, who refused to leave his wife.
In 1988, Dixie and Will Cooney came to visit their Uncle Palmer, and he settled them in Cortlandt Manor, planning to groom Will to take over Cortlandt Electronics. Palmer desired to run Dixie’s life just as he had Nina’s, and plotted to keep her apart from the man she loved, Tad Martin. Ironically, Palmer met his match in Tad’s mother, Opal, who captured his heart after ex-wife Daisy made her over in a more refined image. They were married and, on Christmas Day 1992, son Petey arrived. After a series of financial setbacks, Palmer and Opal opened the Chicken Shack using Opal’s recipe for Purdified Chicken, and it was a success. The happy union was almost destroyed by Palmer’s brief affair with Janet Green in 1995, but the marriage survived.
In 1998, it was discovered that Palmer had hidden away priceless paintings saved from destruction by the Nazis after WWII. Palmer refused to turn his treasures over to the police, even going so far as to fake his own death to protect the paintings. Palmer was shocked when he finally realized that the paintings actually contained a secret list of Nazis who had fled Europe for safer locations after the war, and he was devastated when he realized that he hadn't saved the paintings from the Nazis, but had actually aided them in their flight from justice.
Meanwhile, Opal and Palmer’s marriage collapsed under the strain of the art treasure fiasco and the appearance of Opal’s long-lost son Adrian. Palmer was forced by Adrian, Tad and Dixie into giving Opal half of everything he had including Cortlandt Manor, and he moved into the Pine Valley Inn.
Palmer’s next trip down the aisle was with Vanessa Bennett, with whom he became disillusioned after her relationship with gigolo Paolo was discovered.
He has vowed to make her life miserable.