Ex-wife awarded €538m in divorce settlement

Oil trader’s former partner secures one of the largest-ever such awards in a UK court

The ex-wife of an oil and gas trader has been awarded about €538 million in what is believed to be one of the largest divorce settlements ever agreed by a UK court. File photograph: Getty Images

The ex-wife of an oil and gas trader has been awarded about €538 million in what is believed to be one of the largest divorce settlements ever agreed by a UK court. File photograph: Getty Images

 

The ex-wife of an oil and gas trader has been awarded £453 million (about €538 million) in what is believed to be one of the largest divorce settlements ever agreed by a UK court.

The ruling confirms London’s status as the favoured location to bring divorce claims against super-rich spouses.

The couple in the case were not identified by the family court judge, Mr Justice Charles Haddon-Cave, but the man (61) is originally from the Caucasus, while the woman (44) was born in eastern Europe.

Both were brought up in Russia and they met in Moscow in 1989, while she was studying in the city. He had been married before.

The couple moved to London in 1993 and have two children. They both accused each other of having affairs.

The woman insisted their relationship had continued after her affair and only ended in 2013.

In his judgment, the judge found there was a “subsisting marriage”, because the couple continued to holiday together, sleep together, and the woman was provided “with the unrestricted use of two of his credit cards and, latterly, the use of his yacht, plane and helicopter”.

The judge noted: “In 2013, for example, [the man] purchased jewellery for her worth €400,000.”

The yacht, helicopter and plane were bought in the man’s name in 2014 and then transferred to offshore companies, the judge said.

During the hearings, the man gave evidence to the court via video-link from the yacht, which cost €260 million and underwent a €42 million refit in 2016.

The judgment read: “She said that marriages can survive affairs, and this marriage was one of them. She said [the man] had had numerous affairs himself during the marriage and had a child by another woman in 2013.”

The woman said she needed £39.27 million to purchase a home in England as a result of the divorce, as well as £27.89 million to buy a property abroad. She also needed £5.36 million a year to live on.

The man was non-resident in the UK for tax purposes, which meant he could only spend 90 days a year in Britain.

The family often enjoyed holidays at their house in France, at ski resorts and in the Maldives.

The judge noted: “They slept in the same bed when they were together, had sex, went on holiday regularly together with the boys, and shared a joint bank account.”

The woman produced evidence to show that the relationship continued after her affair, providing photographs of the couple with their sons and at a “lavish 50th birthday party in 2005, with [the woman] giving a speech for him”.

She also produced a photograph of the couple “in an intimate embrace in the Maldives in 2013”.

She provided “documentary evidence, including emails with architects and contractors, showing that she was actively involved in the renovation of the holiday property in France, and planning their ‘dream home’ in the Caucasus”.

Art collection

The woman was also involved in purchasing works for their art collection, which was valued at $112 million (about €103 million).

The judge noted that the man referred to her as “my wife” in emails to “organisers of an art fair, his solicitors, Amex, Sotheby’s and [estate agent] Knight Frank”.

Concluding his judgment, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said the couple had marital assets worth £1 billion.

Their wealth, he added, had been built up over the course of the marriage through “equal contributions to the welfare of the family and should be subject to the sharing principle”.

He said a split approaching 50-50 was therefore appropriate.

The woman had originally sought £350 million, but because the two parties had not agreed a settlement, she claimed a further £93 million, comprising: chattels at their English home valued at £2.5 million; an Aston Martin car in Surrey valued at £350,000, and the art collection.

The judge said: “The total value of her claim is now, therefore, £453,576,152. This comprises some 41.5 per cent of the total marital assets. I find that this figure is justified in all the circumstances.”

Guardian service