People are always fascinated by the extreme. The highest mountain, the tallest building, the fastest runner or the richest person in the world. In the legal field, we have the longest criminal trial of all time and the highest civil jury verdict. Given our obsession with the rich and famous, there is also the most expensive divorces. The following is a summary of the 5 most expensive divorces, at least up to 2014, in ascending order. These were undoubtedly a godsend to the divorce lawyers who handled these cases who may have charged hundreds of thousands or even millions in legal fees or whatever they felt was “reasonable” given the bottomless pockets of their clients and the enormous sums of money at stake.
Adan Khashoggi was an arms dealer out of Saudi Arabia who married a young beauty named Soraya when she was just 15 years old in 1961. Although they divorced in 1974, Adan promised to support Soraya and the couple’s five children but she sued him nonetheless in 1979 for $2.54 billion. She received a settlement of $874 million, at the time the highest divorce settlement ever. Mr. Khashoggi, alas, is no longer a billionaire according to Forbes Magazine but Soraya was reportedly enjoying her second life as a florist.
Oil means money, and Continental CEO Harold Hamm was no slouch in this department with a net worth of around $14 to $20 billion. Married in 1988 to Sue Ann Hamm, a lawyer, you would have expected her to receive a nice percentage of his assets, with some pundits putting the estimate as high as 25 to 30%. However, because of undoubtedly good lawyering on Mr. Hamm’s behalf, Sue Ann received a measly $995.5 million in a settlement, comprising a mere 7% of Mr. Hamm’s assets. When the Hamms went to court in 2014, it was widely anticipated that the ultimate settlement or award would surpass that of the current champions of the most expensive divorce of all time. Mrs. Hamm’s lawyers have filed an appeal, arguing that the awarded sum is unreasonably minuscule given the couple’s long marriage and his estimated wealth.
84-year old Bernie Ecclestone is the chief executive of the Formula 1 Group that oversees the very lucrative world of Formula One Racing. In 2009, he and wife, former Armani model, Slavica, settled their divorce amicably with her receiving a reported $1 to 1.5 billion. However, it was later revealed that most of Mr. Ecclestone’s assets were in the name of his former wife who is paying him $95 million per year as part of the settlement. Mr. Ecclestone has been suspected for years of having obtained his initial wealth illegitimately and recently was able to buy himself out of a bribery charge brought in Germany by paying $100 million. At least the Germans openly acknowledge that you can buy justice if you can afford it.
Alec Wildenstein, since deceased, was part of a family art dealing dynasty who later became well-known in European horse racing circles. He married Jocelyne, to whom he was introduced by Adan Khashoggi (see above) in 1978. In a seemingly desperate attempt to keep her difficult husband enamored of her, Jocelyne underwent a series of bizarre and not always successful plastic surgeries that earned her the ignominious title of “bride of Wildenstein.” Gazing on her unusual facial features, you would understand why. Having allegedly found her husband in bed with a teenage Russian model in 1997, Jocelyne sued for divorce on grounds of adultery, was awarded millions by the court and ultimately settled for $2.5 billion. Alec died in 2008.
The winner and still champions are the Rybolovlevs, with Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev being ordered to pay the ungodly sum of $4.5 billion by a Geneva, Switzerland court to wife Elena after a six year legal battle that surely left the attorneys for both sides eternally grateful for the legal fees they generated. Dmitry made his fortune in 2010 when he sold his share in a Russia potassium fertilizer company for $6.5 billion. He is the current owner of a top soccer club, Monaco, along with some other assets that were dubiously acquired while his divorce was pending including the establishment of a trust with his daughter, Ekaterina, as beneficiary that owns two Greek islands once owned by Aristotle Onassis.
21-year old Ekaterina made her own name in Manhattan when in 2012, Dmitry bought her, through a company set up for her by her father, a 6,744 square foot, 10-bedroom, Central Park penthouse for $88 million, currently the highest price ever paid for a New York apartment. He called it student housing for his daughter. The acquisition was just one of several properties Dmitry bought in an ill-advised attempt to prevent at least some of his money from ending up in the hands of Elena while the divorce was still winding its way through court. These included a Hawaiian property once owned by actor Will Smith for $20 million and a former Donald Trump Palm Beach estate for $95 million. It was also during this time that he bought the Monaco football club and the two Greek islands.
A spokesman for Dmitry curiously claimed victory for his boss, though his lawyers are appealing the decision, which constitutes about half of Dmitry’s estimated fortune of $8.8 billion.
According to the terms of the award, Dmitry will have to relinquish $146 million in property holdings in Gstaad, hand over a lump sum of $7.5 million and pay alimony amounting to $150 million. In addition, he has monthly child support payments of $150,000 so that his children can continue to live in the manner to which they had grown accustomed.
In June of 2015, Dmitry Rybolovlev received $4,000,000,000 back after appealing the original settlement awarded to his ex-wife. This brought the divorce down to $604 million, and his ex also got to keep two lavish Swish chalets.
This moves the Rybolovleva’s down the list to number 5, behind the Khashoggis.
To all of these husbands with their enormous wealth—did they ever hear of a prenuptial agreement?