Ex-wife gets S$5.6b in world’s most expensive divorce

Published: 4:12 AM, May 21, 2014

GENEVA — It is thought to be the most expensive divorce in history. Strange then, perhaps, that the battle should go down to the very last centime.

A Swiss court has ordered Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev to hand over half of his fortune to his ex-wife, Elena, a sum that a Geneva judge has ruled to be precisely 4,020,555,987 Swiss francs and 20 centimes (S$5.6 billion), the Swiss media reported on Monday.

Mr Rybolovlev, 47, was ordered on May 13 to hand over the astronomical sum to his former wife, who lives in Geneva, said Le Temps, the Swiss daily newspaper.

Under the historic divorce settlement, the oligarch is to give his ex-wife half of the property deeds to their two former homes in Cologny, a fashionable district in Geneva. It has also ordered him to hand over antique furniture and jewellery. Ms Elena Rybolovleva reportedly also won custody of the couple’s 13-year-old daughter Anna. Mr Rybolovleva can appeal against the ruling.

The couple, who wed in Cyprus, had been married for 23 years.

The reported divorce settlement will dwarf the previous most punitive divorce, estimated at US$2.5 billion (S$3.1 billion), between art heir Alec Wildenstein and his former wife Jocelyne.

The second-highest divorce settlement until now came when media mogul Rupert Murdoch was ordered to award his former wife Anna US$1.7 billion in 1999.

The Geneva court declined to provide details of the ruling, which a spokesman said was in accordance with its policy of only sharing them with the parties to a case.

Mr Rybolovlev, who lives in Monaco, has an estimated US$8.8 billion fortune, which he made in the potassium industry, making him the world’s 147th richest man, said Forbes magazine.

Ms Rybolovlev began divorce proceedings in Switzerland in 2008, winning a freeze on some of her husband’s assets, including majority ownership of French football club AS Monaco, a US$295 million stake in Bank of Cyprus and a US$95 million home in Palm Beach, Florida, purchased from tycoon Donald Trump.

She later sued him in the United States, accusing him of trying to shield the Florida property from the divorce proceedings, along with a Manhattan penthouse that had cost US$88 million — said to be the highest sum paid for an apartment in the city at the time.

Ms Rybolovlev also said her husband had used marital property to buy a multitude of other assets through a variety of trusts and limited liability companies, hoping to put those assets beyond her reach. AGENCIES