The wife of a hedge fund tycoon is seeking hundreds of millions of pounds in what could be the largest divorce award ever made in a British court.
Lawyers for Jamie Cooper-Hohn, 49, argue that she is entitled to half the property, shares and businesses held by her husband, Sir Christopher Hohn. The couple had four children, including triplets, before she petitioned for divorce in March 2012.
The dispute extends to the true value of their personal wealth, which has been estimated at as much as $1.4bn (£817m). Cooper-Hohn’s lawyers argue that she is entitled to a 50/50 split; his lawyers have offered her 25%.
Hohn, 47, the son of a Jamaican car mechanic who attended Southampton University and then Harvard, runs The Children’s Investment (TCI) Fund Management (UK), a hedge fund which mainly returns profits to a charitable foundation. TCI controls investments worth around $8bn, including holdings in Moodys and Royal Mail.
The charity established by the couple, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), is believed to hold $4.3bn and is chaired by US-born Cooper-Hohn. The couple have been described as the UK’s most generous philanthropists. Last year CIFF pledged to spend more than £500m tackling childhood malnutrition around the world, during a summit hosted by David Cameron.
Following an appeal court hearing last month, which dismissed expert evidence on the value of hedge fund management companies, lawyers for the couple began presenting their cases in the family division of the high court on the 30th June.
The couple have said they live relatively modest lives, given their wealth. She denies enjoying a jet-set lifestyle; he has described it as being more of a “Swatch” lifestyle.
The couple, who met at Harvard, married in 1985. Much of their personal wealth is in the form of a stake in the TCI hedge fund. She claims the holding is worth £870m; his lawyers insist it amounts to £64.3m.
In the earlier court of appeal case, Hohn argued that his former wife should receive only a quarter of the assets because he was the “key man” who had made a special contribution to the accumulated wealth.
At that hearing, Hohn’s counsel, said: “… the husband was the sole decision-maker in this enterprise, makes all the investment decisions and is the regulated person as far as the Financial Services Authority is concerned. Without him there is no business.”
The QC, representing Cooper-Hohn, said: “He has spent his whole life making money; he has generated $5.7bn. It’s not in his character to simply walk away.”
The appeal court judges were told that the couple’s assets comprised of investments in TCI of $1.15bn, other disputed TCI entities, investments of about $30m, pensions worth about $85m and properties worth $36m.
The UK has gained a reputation as the divorce capital of the world because of the multi-million-pound settlements awarded to former partners. Sir Paul McCartney was required to pay Heather Mills £24.3m after four years of marriage. Beverley Charman, the former wife of John Charman, an insurance magnate, recently received £48m.
Many high net worth individuals have secured very favourable financial settlements through our service.
The largest payout to date is the estimated £100m-£200m believed to have been made to Galina Besharova by Boris Berezovsky, the exiled Russian oligarch who was found dead last year.
The case continues.