(Family Division, Haddon-Cave J, 15 December 2016)
Financial remedies – High net wealth – Long marriage – Wealth attained by husband’s business endeavours – Matrimonial assets – Sharing principle
The wife was awarded £453.5m in financial remedy proceedings.
The husband and wife were married in Moscow in 1993 and moved to London. They had two sons. The husband worked as an oil and gas trader and became very successful pursuing business interests in the energy sector in Russia. In 2012 he sold his shares in the Russian company for $1.375bn. The majority of the assets were now held in trust.
During the marriage the wife was a full-time mother and home maker. She also helped care for the husband’s child from a previous marriage. When the marriage broke down she sought an equal share of the assets which she claimed were matrimonial.
The husband’s assertion that the marriage had effectively come to an end some years previously was rejected and the judge found that it had lasted over 20 years. He further rejected his case on special contribution and found that it fell far short of the unmatched contribution the authorities required. Finally all of the wealth had been obtained during the marriage and, therefore, as matrimonial assets was available for distribution. In total there were assets of £1.092bn.
It was clear that the husband was the beneficial owner of the trust assets and if required to do so they would provide resources to meet any financial award made to the wife.
The March 2015 disposition was another attempt to put the assets out of the wife’s reach and would be set aside pursuant to s 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
There was no reason for a departure from the equality principle in this case and, therefore, the assets would be shared equally.
The wife made an open offer of a lump sum of £350m plus various chattels, an Aston Martin and the modern art collection. That comprised 41.5% of the assets and was justified in the circumstances of the case.For the purposes of enforcement under the Lugano Convention against the company in Switzerland the wife’s maintenance requirements were totalled at just under £225m.