California residents may have heard that a rich Russian businessman was ordered to pay his estranged wife $4.5 billion in a divorce settlement in 2014. After a recent appeal, the ex-husband now only has to pay about $609 billion.
In 2008, the ex-wife filed divorce papers in Geneva, and the couple spent seven years in litigation over how much of the money that the businessman had in trusts should be counted toward the overall divorce settlement. According to Switzerland law, the ex-wife has a right to half of the earnings that he accumulated while they were married.
In 2005, however, he moved much of his wealth into offshore trusts without making her a beneficiary. When the court ordered him to pay $4.5 billion to her, his attorney filed an appeal. On June 11, the higher Swiss court overturned the initial decision, reducing the payout by nearly $4 billion to 565 million francs. The ex-wife’s attorney is unhappy with the decision and plans to appeal in the Swiss Supreme Court.
The businessman’s attorney says that she is pleased with the ruling because he opened the trusts so that the fortune would be passed on to future family generations. He accumulated much of his wealth in the fertilizer industry in Russia. In addition, he owns the Monaco Football Club, a leading French soccer team.
High-asset divorces can be complex because they usually involve businesses and multiple financial accounts that may or may not be established overseas. Spouses who are unable to agree on how to split the wealth that was accumulated over the course of their marriage are more likely to seek legal representation in court.
Source: CNN, “Russian oligarch’s divorce bill cut by $4 billion,” Ivana Kottasova, June 12, 2015