Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky has reportedly agreed to pay his second wife Galina £100m to settle their divorce. Many lawyers believe it to be the biggest divorce settlement in British legal history, smashing the previous record set in 2007 by insurance tycoon John Charman and his wife of 28 years Beverley.
Berezovsky, 64, met Galina in 1981 while still married to his first wife Nina and earning a paltry £60 a month as a professor of mathematics at the University of Moscow.
Over the next 20 years, however, he built up a vast fortune. In the 1990s, he established a used car business and opened the first Mercedes dealership in the Soviet Union. He then acquired Sibneft, an oil company, and a majority shareholding in ORT, Russia's biggest television company.
He married Galina in 1991. The couple had two children together but separated in the mid-1990s. Berezovsky's fortune continued to grow, however, and topped £1bn at one point.
Seemingly, Galina, 51, was happy to live apart but remain married. The Guardian reports that she only filed for divorce -- on the ground of "unreasonable behaviour" -- after reading a press report that wrongly referred to Berezovsky's mistress, Yelena Gorbunova, 42, as his "wife".
Frank Arndt, of Stowe Family Law, said: "The starting point in a long marriage, such as the Berezovsky case is equalisation or 50:50 split of all matrimonial assets. This is all the capital created in a marriage, including all savings and pensions.
"The Berezovskys were married for 18 years, have two teenage children and, though estimates of the couple's fortune vary, it is indeed likely that any settlement eventually awarded to Mrs Berezovsky will dwarf the £48m awarded to Beverley Charman."
In John Charman's divorce, the high court ruled the tycoon should get 63.5% of the couple's wealth rather than half because of his "special contribution to building it up" and because the assets he was keeping were "riskier" than those that went to his wife.
"It is difficult to speculate what the husband and wife teams would have argued in the Berezovsky case but she will come out of this very wealthy. At one point his fortune was estimated at £1bn and 37% of that is £370m ... However, the biggest challenge facing Mrs Berezovsky might not be the size of the eventual settlement, but how the payment of that settlement can be enforced. This is a question that has been exercising family judges of late, and much can depend upon the locations in which the couple's assets are held."
- Boris Berezovsky's second wife wins record £100m divorce settlement (The Guardian)
- London cements reputation as 'legal playground for rich and famous' (FindLaw UK, The Solicitor)
- Blog entries about family law (FindLaw UK, The Solicitor)
- Articles about divorce and dissolution (FindLaw UK, Learn About the Law)
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- Find a family law solicitor (Contact Law, a free solicitor referral service)