LONDON (Reuters) - A former London oil and gas trader has been ordered to pay his estranged British wife 453 million pounds - 41.5 percent of his wealth - in one of the biggest divorce settlements in English legal history.
The 61-year-old man, who has not been named, met his wife, now aged 44, in 1989 in Moscow where she was studying and they married four years later, according to a judgement handed down at London’s High Court on Thursday.
The man, who was born in the Caucasus, earned a fortune in Russia’s energy sector, selling shares in a Russian company he set up for $1.37 billion in 2012, said the written ruling from judge Charles Haddon-Cave.
The woman, originally from eastern Europe who was a housewife throughout the marriage, became a British citizen in 2000 and brought up their two children in Surrey, south of London, where they were educated at private schools before going to university in England.
She said that her estranged husband’s wealth amounted to just over 1 billion pounds and argued that the wealth was “acquired and built up during their long marriage by the parties’ equal contributions to the welfare of the family”, the judgement said.
The man, who has been granted indefinite leave to live in Britain, did not contest the proceedings, for reasons which the judge said were unclear, but had contended that he had made a “special contribution” to the family’s wealth.
The woman, referred to in the judgement as “W”, said she needed a house in London to be near her sons and a villa in the south of France so she could see her sons during their holidays, a maintenance claim which amounted to 224 million pounds.
“In the absence of any countervailing evidence, I find that these figures are justified on the evidence before me, given the lifestyle which to which W has become accustomed during her married life and leads,” the judgement said.
As part of the overall 453 million pound settlement, Haddon-Cave ordered the transfer to the woman of an Aston Martin car worth 350,000 pounds and a modern art collection valued at over 90 million pounds.
The largest previous reported divorce settlement in Britain was the $530 million (£411 million) sum awarded to the estranged wife of hedge fund billionaire Christopher Hohn in 2014, although many divorce disputes are held in private.
(The story was refiled to fix a garble in the last paragraph)
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison