Giant divorce claim could be Australia’s costliest split – but it can’t match these billionaire bust-ups

Could this be Australia’s biggest ever divorce claim? An Adelaide woman has lodged a divorce claim worth well over $25 million against her ex-husband in what has become one of the most bitter marriage splits in history.

According to a report in The Australian, the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, applied to the Family Court for a $278,000 monthly support payment for herself and her only son.

While the Court rejected this claim, she is pushing ahead for a final settlement from the divorce that would see her receive more than $24 million in property (including a Swiss chalet) and other payments. Her former husband is contesting.

The bitter legal battle – the paper says the pair has been to court on 28 separate occasions – would have to be one of Australia’s biggest divorce cases.

However, even if the woman manages to win a big payout in the final settlement, she is unlikely to match Australia’s two members of the BRW Rich 200 list who have earned a big part of their fortunes from divorce settlements: Nicole Kidman and Lynette Harvey.

Kidman, valued on this year’s list with a fortune of $329 million, received a divorce settlement worth a reported $109 million when she split from actor Tom Cruise in 2001.

Lynette Harvey, the former wife of retail king Gerry Harvey, retained a large stake in Harvey Norman when the couple split in 1982. She was listed on this year’s Rich 200 with a fortune of $205 million; her stake in Harvey Norman is worth more than $170 million.

But these splits are dwarfed by what is widely seen as the biggest divorce settlement in history, finalised earlier this year – the split between US casino mogul Steve Wynn and his wife Elaine.

The pair, who have actually divorced twice (they first married in 1963, broke up in 1986 and then remarried five years later), finalised their latest settlement in January.

According to Forbes, Elaine ended up with 11,076,708 shares in Wynn Resorts as part of the settlement; based on the company’s share price, that stake is worth just over $1.06 billion.

Another billionaire bust-up that is in the process of being settled is the split between Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and his ex-wife Slavica. An official cost to the split has yet to be determined, but initial estimates said the settlement could be as high as $1.7 billion.

Prior to the Wynn’s divorce settlement, the biggest divorce on record was paid by US mobile phone industry pioneer Craig McCaw, who sold a group of mobile phone assets to AT&T in 1994 for $US11.5 billion. Less than a year later, Craig and his wife Wendy split.

In the bitter divorce battle that followed, everyone from Craig’s elderly mother to Bill Gates was called to give evidence. Eventually, Wendy walked away with $US460 million in shares in telco Nextel. Unfortunately for her, those shares later tanked during the tech wreck of 2001.

(Source:  James Thomson, Smart Company, 11/06/10)

About Rushmore Forensic

Rushmore Forensic is a forensic accounting firm based in Sydney. We specialise in the investigation, and valuation of businesses subject to family law/divorce disputes.

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