Harbour Litigation Funding, a litigation financer, has announced that it is financing a £400m divorce case brought by Michelle Young against her estranged husband, Scot Young.
Mr Young is a property entrepreneur and his estranged wife's lawyers are trying to find out more about his missing fortune, valued at more than £400m just three years ago.
Harbour typically offers commercial litigation funding, and the Young case is believed to be their first financing of a divorce case. The company funds claims with a value in excess of £3m in return for a share of the proceeds if the claim is successful.
However, the Young case may just be an exception to Harbour's usual commercial litigation work and not an indication of a new market that they wish to enter. Asked by Newswatch about their new foray into the divorce market, Susan Dunn, Harbour's head of litigation funding, said: "It is not something we are looking to promote as it is only one case of ours, we traditionally do commercial litigation funding".
Angela Davis, Associate and family law specialist at Nottingham law firm Berryman, commented: "This is a big departure from the usual litigation loans that can be available, although they are repayable whatever the outcome and many clients struggling to pay have traditionally not been able to meet the lending requirements for such loans.
"Although this is an interesting development I suspect it will only be of interest to institutions such as Harbour if the stakes are high and assets substantial. I doubt they will be interested in the divorce of the average man on the street where assets are more modest and it may not be readily apparent who has 'won' at the end of the case.
"Furthermore this is a high profile case and all the media interest has the potential to be good marketing and profile-raising for the firm concerned, whatever the outcome!"
Last month Mr Young was ordered to account for his missing millions or face a six-month prison term. He insisted his property empire collapsed, he is being pursued for £27 million by creditors and he expects to be made bankrupt.
Mr Scott's lawyers told the High Court that he had been unable to provide the details because he was in hospital with mental problems at the time he was supposed to do so. Mrs Justice Parker adjourned the divorce case for six weeks and ordered medical reports about his treatment.
According to media reports, Ms Young, 45, is seeking £48,000 a month in maintenance and faces eviction from the upmarket London townhouse where she lives with the couple's daughters because, she says, her estranged husband has stopped paying the rent.
The couple married at a Chelsea register office in 1995. They later moved to Florida before Mrs Young returned to Britain in 2006 with the children.