Wife awarded record-breaking £337 million divorce settlement
The wife of financier Sir Chris Hohn received a record-breaking £337 million divorce settlement in a draft ruling last week, which is believed to be the UK’s highest ever, making her richer than the Queen.
English financier Sir Chris Hohn, who was knighted for his services to philanthropy and international development in the 2014 Birthday Honours, met his American wife Jamie Cooper-Hohn whilst they were students at Harvard Business School. They went on to marry in 1995, having 4 children together including triplets, before they separated after 17 years in 2012 – leading to a complex and costly legal battle. It has been estimated that the former couple, who have a sizeable fortune and homes in the UK, US and West Indies, have incurred millions of pounds in legal costs.
During the hearing, there had been great disparity in the parties’ estimation of Sir Chris’s wealth. Mrs Cooper-Hohn argued that her husband had assets of up to £890 million, whilst Hohn, who is in the Sunday Times Rich List, argued that he was comparatively only worth £64.3 million; the Judge, Mrs Justice Roberts, who seemed to agree more with the wife’s assessment, based last week’s ruling on the determination that Sir Chris is worth surplus of £700 million. She found Mrs Cooper-Hohn to be entitled to just under 50% of her husband’s determined wealth, which Mrs Cooper-Hohn’s lawyers argued was accumulated as a result of their “partnership” – despite the husband’s legal team arguing that Mrs Cooper-Hohn should only receive 25%.
Mrs Justice Roberts is expected to give a more detailed ruling of her judgment at a later stage, whilst Mrs Cooper-Hohn’s legal team indicated that they may actually appeal this decision, despite its sizeable nature, by requesting a deadline to appeal.
The Divorce Capital of the World?
Due to a slew of very favourable settlements towards the ex-spouses of wealthy and high-profile individuals like Sir Chris Hohn, the press has dubbed the UK the “divorce capital of the world”. Such settlements include Heather Mills receiving a £24.3 million from her ex-husband former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, Orianne Cevey being awarded £25 million after her divorce from the singer Phil Collins, and Beverly Charman receiving a £48 million settlement from her ex-husband businessman John Charman. In private proceedings it has also been estimated that Galina Besharova received between £165 and £220 million from her former husband, Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and that Slavacia Ecclestone received a £750 million settlement from her ex-husband, British business magnate Bernie Ecclestone.
It has become increasingly common for people to have the option to get divorced in multiple places as many couples now have links to more than one country. This has led to ‘forum shopping’ and ‘divorce tourism’ – where a party determines which country is most advantageous to get divorced in. If parties are deciding between different EU countries, EU Regulation Brussels II requires the first EU country that receives the proceedings to deal with them – it is therefore imperative that parties act quickly in such circumstances. If parties are deciding between the UK and a country outside of it, the country that has the closest connection to the couple will usually deal with proceedings if there is a dispute (Mittal v Mittal (2013)). Determining the country in which to have divorce proceedings can be a very important decision for transnational couples as the legal criteria vary different and settlements can dramatically differ. The current labelling of the UK as the ‘divorce capital’ may therefore strongly influence this determination, leading to an increase in people wanting to divorce in the UK when they have the option to do so.
This is a guest post by Sara Zadeh. She is interested in all aspects of Family Law. She studied Criminology and Applied Psychology and has completed the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course. Sara is currently volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau and Disability Advice Centre.