Divorce of Zillionaires in London

As readers will know by now Boris Johnson does not normally do austere articles.   He says today: ” We don’t do sex scandals. We don’t dabble our fingers in the stuff of people’s souls. I would not normally dream of citing a divorce case now unfolding before the courts; and therefore I will keep the details to the minimum before we come to the point at interest.

Let us say that there is a certain glamorous blonde in the throes of parting with her husband. She claims that he is worth £400 million and that under the laws of England she is entitled to half of his assets. He claims that this dosh has all but vanished. As soon as she lost that loving feeling, she found that his cash was gone, gone, gone and could not now be retrieved.”

Boris feels that if anyone’s going to make money out of misery, it may as well be us:  “I have no idea who is right. It may be that the husband never had the £400m, or it may be that he left it in the back of a taxi or accidentally mixed it up with the dog food.

But the crucial point is that the search for this cash is causing the wife a fortune in legal bills. She has therefore done a sensational deal – and this new development is causing people to besmirch the morals of our great capital city. A firm called Harbour Litigation Funding has announced that it is now bankrolling the wife in her search for the missing £400m – in return for a share of Eldorado if she is successful.

Top lawyers tell me they have never seen anything like it. Some posh banks may have traditionally offered to lend rich people the cost of their divorce, on the usual terms, in the hope that this may allow them to build up a lucrative relationship with the client. But this is possibly the first time a divorce has been treated as a joint-stock venture. This is the first example of a Divorce Fund, in which both the backers and the aggrieved spouse intend to share any recovered funds, and it is of course encouraging the critics to claim that London is the “divorce capital of the world”.

Oh dear, oh dear. Is this the reputation we want? It is one thing to be known as the financial capital of the world, the cultural capital of the world or the world’s leading centre for health sciences. But divorce? Before we all despair, we should be clear that we are not here talking of the general rise in divorce and family breakdown. We mean, in this context, the attractions of London to the folk who winter in Verbier and summer in Palm Beach, and who come to London to get divorced, darlink, because they have a residence here, and because of the famous 2001 case of White v White. It was then that the House of Lords ruled that divorcing spouses should receive a settlement that did not merely reflect their reasonable financial requirements.

Being a partner in the marriage, supporting a spouse by staying at home and taking care of children and domestic matters, was enough to entitle you to half the other person’s wealth. If you want an example of the impact of this ruling, think of the case of a much-loved British musical genius; and if you can’t guess it may jog your memory if I say his ex-wife has one leg.

In one sense the ruling has been seen as pro-equality, since it insists on marriage as an equal partnership. It has been seen as pro-women, in that it is making some rich ex-wives much richer than they might otherwise have been.

Others have seen it as sexist and paternalist, encouraging young girls to think that they need only use their charms to hitch themselves to some footballer or pop star, and then take them to the cleaners when love dies. Baroness Ruth Deech of the Bar Standards Board has condemned White v White for “sending the wrong signal” to such girls, encouraging them to hurl themselves at rich men.

As it happens I am not sure that the Baroness is right to call the ruling sexist, since it is increasingly benefiting young men who find themselves splitting from very rich women – such as another global pop star I can think of (clue: she used to have a kind of conical bra).  The new Harbour Litigation divorce-funding scheme seems to be specifically targeted at the rich, and before you say that the financiers are still bloodsuckers profiting from the misery of others, let me add the clinching argument in favour of this new financial instrument.

These zillionaires are going to get divorced, whatever we do. And if they are going to get divorced, isn’t there a cynical economic logic in encouraging them to do it in London?

Far from being a sign of moral malaise, I am inclined to see this Divorce Fund initiative as the latest evidence of the resilience of the London economy. Just as the financial services industry is reeling, they come up with a new and inventive offering. Rich wives and toyboys across the world can see the prudence of pestering their spouses to maintain an address in London – just in case it all goes wrong.

Yes, it is a sad title, to be known as the divorce capital of the world. But in one sense it is not without its economic compensations.”

The full article appears in The Daily Telegraph

22 thoughts on “Divorce of Zillionaires in London”

  1. Of course most modern marriages of those with substantial resources seem to based around a “just in case” attitude which may be reasonable or not, who’s to say ?. I remember simpler days, when my first marriage broke up, I in all my innocence went to the bank to draw out some money to find my first wife had taken every last penny from it the day after we split. I don’t know how long the £38.76 lasted her, but there were economic repercussions for the rest of that week.

  2. Well, if Roman Polanski can win a libel suit in London without ever once setting foot there (for fear of being arrested for the crime for which he is now in custody) then sure, why not? Obviously it’s an insane system. Why not just lay back and go with it?

  3. Oh hear hear, Boris! Excellent article: London is the new Reno. Something to keep house prices keen.

    When (no-fault?) divorce was brought in a Lady said it was a man’s charter enabling men to throw off their wives and take up with a younger model. And so it was. It is good that that was checked by recent events in the law.

    Mind you if it wasn’t for the one leg hint I’d never have guessed who the “British musical genius” was. I kept wondering if Elgar had got divorced!

  4. @Philipa: Where did you get that ” a British musical genius ” hint from? Who can it be? Peter Andre?

    I scanned the entire article but only found this ” she used to have a cobra ” hint. Who can it be? An Indian snake charmer?

    I think I need to see an optician. A relationship breakup is always a sad experience. I have seen it through my friends. A woman is supposed to marry a man who is supposed to build a nest for the family. When she divorces her husband, she will get the house for herself and the children; as in most cases.

    When she has her own house, she is stuck. What is she supposed to do next? Find another man and let him move in with her and her children for free lodging; if he doesn’t own a house ? Or she and the new man sells their houses and buy a bigger house together? And what about the will? If she dies, what will her children get, etc.?

    Possession is your own prison.

  5. It’s just as I thought. The whole country has turned into a circus. It takes away any incentive for me to make a break for it. I might as well stay where I am!

  6. I see that Peter Hitchens has had to trawl back in time to beat Boris Johnson. And gee what a momentous event to beat him at! Was I talking of the Mayoral race? no. Success in journalism? no. Politics? Definitely not. Celebrity University Challenge. It seemed a bit sad to me to protest that Peter knew the answers but.. oh dear! someone got to the buzzer first. Yes of course he did, Peter. There there, dear.

  7. “The Mayor has made it a particular priority to improve the quality of Londoners’ overall daily travel experiences whether as drivers, pedestrians, cyclists or public transport users.”

    “This is sheer fantasy and fundamentally dishonest, because you can’t improve conditions for, say, cyclists or pedestrians, without slowing down drivers.”

    It’s nonsense, and rather spineless nonsense.

  8. @cherry_crisis: I have to say that the last time I took a taxi in London I got out when the meter was at £10 (which seemed to take seconds) as I could walk faster than the traffic was moving. I do like the cycle lanes on the continent. Having those would be good (and safer) as they’d encourage me at least to cycle. And I like the trams in Vienna. I think they would be great too.

  9. Talk about people going bonkers.

    Latest news:

    MPs go bonkers for conkers

    Parliament is going bonkers for conkers tomorrow as MPs take on the Press in the first-ever House of Commons conkers contest.

    MPs and Peers come to blows with members of the Press in Victoria Tower Gardens between 2pm – 4pm to find the Conkerer of Parliament.

    The conker challenge is being staged by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) as part of its ‘Stop taking the myth’ campaign.

    IOSH said the campaign is to show that health and safety is not a killjoy conspiracy to ban people’s fun but a necessary safeguard against injuries and possible death.

    Too many pastimes have been reportedly ‘banned’ in the UK with health and safety taking the rap – like children being told to wear goggles to play conkers by an over-cautious headteacher, for example, and other such bogus ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ nonsense, they said.

    Conkers will be brought on the day by the organisers of the World Conker Championships. All conker players will pay an entrance fee, with proceeds going to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

    Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell, who originally suggested the conkers challenge to IOSH, said, “ Health and safety is a very important subject, but sometimes the message of preventing death and injury is lost when health and safety is blamed unfairly for allegedly preventing people from having a good time.

    “ By holding a light-hearted conkers competition I hope that this will help convey the message that health and safety is not about preventing people enjoying themselves.”

  10. @Melissa: sounds like great fun and I hope it will be televised or at least reported on! If you can snatch a peek and keep us updated, Mel that would be a treat tommorow; a quite wonderful day 🙂

  11. Perhaps we should re-introduce the system where the divorce settlement was based partly on whose fault it all was. This would be much more entertaining for the public and would make it more difficult for spouses to say “Well, you’ve had the benefit of me for a couple of years. I’m off now. That will be £20 million, please.”

  12. @Tiresias: Perhaps we should leave it as it is so that wives who’ve given the best 20 years of their lives can finally say they’ve had enough of being ignored and bullied.

    I remember talking to one frightened woman – frightened to say anything – because her husband dealt with all that. He’d made no provision for her at all in the event of his death. She had no idea whether the house was mortgaged or paid yet she was his wife! She wasn’t allowed to work and had no private pension, nothing. She didn’t even know how much he earned. She wasn’t stupid, just living in fear. She should be told she didn’t need to put up with that. No-one needs to put up with that. Under your rules, Tiresias, she’d leave with what she had in the marriage – nothing but blame.

  13. I’m not trying to scare any of you here, but it was reported in the press last week that this year people nationwide have commented that all the spiders ( outdoor/ indoor types ) are very, very BIG thanks to the warm spring and summer ( plenty of insects for the spiders to munch ).

    Every night, I sit watching the telly and see a big spider emerge from the fireplace and run across the room! They are very BIG – about 3 inches wide from knee to knee. I just hit them with my slipper or a rolled up newspapers ( The Times ). Some night I kill 2 or 3 of them, all that size. No problem.

    But one night last week, I was sitting watching the telly as usual, suddenly a BIG BIG spider appeared on the floor right beside my right foot, smelling the bacon crumb I had dropped on the floor – It was soooooo BIg that I just screamed out loud and jumped onto the settee. The huge spider just ran off and disappeared behind the telly. Gee! It was about 3.5 inches wide.

    I have seen at least 3 different species: black with white spots, brown and black with a face which looks like a Moth’s face!

    Talking about conkers. Newspapers have advised that you place fresh conkers on the window sills, near the fireplaces… to keep the spiders at bay.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  14. A story in the Mail today proves my point: ‘

    “My husband, Scot Young, has totally abandoned his responsibilities to his young daughters, and his failure to provide a safe and secure home for them is causing exceptional emotional torment.

    (Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1220400/Judge-orders-400m-divorce-wife-evicted-luxury-Regents-Park-town-house.html )

    See the happy photo of Mr Young with his new young girlfriend fashion designer Noelle Reno. While his wife is forced to claim government housing WHICH THE TAXPAYER WILL HAVE TO FUND! What happened to his vows? How is he loving and cherishing his family in that photo? Where is he in sickness and in health? Till death he does depart this world he has a responsibility to his children.

    In the Mail as well today there is yet another story of a man killing his children. And talk about biased comment! It should be titled the Daily Male.

  15. It seems to me indicative of our broken society (thanks DC) that one might take solace in the financial compensations for the act of two, at the most modest estimation, lives being torn asunder. Is this not the same thinking which leads young girls to throw themselves at footballers, or rather at their cheque-books, and via them at the boutiques? This country has long since abandoned its spiritual roots, even our state religion, adapted to a materialist world view as it largely is, cannot stand the rate of change. We live in an age that worships the golden calf, worships money and worships materialism. Little wonder that children run amok in the classroom and in the estates, for we have also thrown away our moral compasses. The only thing guaranteed to galvanise is real or perceived financial slight; why else the outcry over MP’s expenses and banker’s bonuses? Is it not time for society to take a look at what it stands for and to ask whether we are proud of what we have created? I know I’m not.

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