Russian oligarch hit with world's most expensive divorce

By Henry Samuel

Billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. Photo / Getty Images
Billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. Photo / Getty Images

It is thought to be the most expensive divorce in history, involving a bitter tussle over two of the most valuable properties bought in the United States and a £100 million ($195 million) Greek island once owned by Aristotle Onassis.

Strange then, perhaps, that the battle should go down to the very last centime.

A Swiss court has ordered Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire owner of the French football club AS Monaco, to hand over half of his fortune to his former wife, Elena, a sum that the Geneva judge ruled to be precisely 4,020,555,987 Swiss francs and 20 centimes - or $5,229,624,651.71.

Rybolovlev was ordered to hand over the sum to his former wife, who lives in the Swiss city, on May 13, according to Le Temps, the Swiss daily newspaper. The couple, both 47, had been married for 23 years.

If the sum proves correct, it will dwarf the previous most expensive divorce, estimated at £1.5 billion, between Alec Wildenstein, an art heir, and his former wife Jocelyne in 1999.

The second-highest divorce settlement until now came when Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul, was ordered to give his former wife Anna £1 billion in 1999.

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

Rybolovlev and his former wife, who met as university students in Perm, Russia, have been engaged in an acrimonious fight since 2008 over the terms of the divorce, as she sought a major slice of his estimated £5.3 billion fortune, which he made in the potassium industry - making him the world's 147th-richest man, according to Forbes magazine.

She reportedly also won custody of their 13-year-old daughter, Anna, along with Rybolovlev's half of their former home in Cologny, Geneva.

Among the properties to which his former wife laid claim were two of the most expensive residences ever bought in the US. These were Donald Trump's Palm Beach mansion, Maison de L'Amitie, bought in 2008 for £56 million, and a New York flat bought in 2012 for £52 million - said to be the highest sum paid for an apartment in the city at the time.

Other properties Rybolovlev owns include a £12 million Hawaii mansion he bought from the Hollywood star Will Smith, and La Belle Epoque penthouse in Monaco, where he lives, for which he reportedly paid £178 million.

He bought the Greek island of Skorpios from the Onassis dynasty last year for a reported £100 million for his elder daughter Ekaterina, 25, a socialite show jumper. The island was made famous as the location of Aristotle Onassis' wedding to Jacqueline Kennedy in 1968.

Rybolovlev's wealth came from the sale of his stake in Uralkali, a Russian fertiliser business, in 2010. He went on to buy AS Monaco in December 2011, and has since splashed out on players in a bidding war against the Qatari-owned Paris Saint Germain.

Rybolovlev's assets include an art collection filled with paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Monet.

Since splitting from her husband, Elena Rybolovleva has been followed almost round the clock by private detectives, she told the Swiss financial magazine Bilan in January. In February, she was questioned by police in Cyprus on suspicion of stealing a diamond ring reportedly worth £15 million, borrowed from her daughter but not returned, and which belonged to a trust. She was released without charge.

She was by Rybolovlev's side as he rose from a doctor-turned-entrepreneur into a stockbroker and banker, before becoming chairman and majority shareholder of Uralkali.

They stayed together during his 11 months in jail - when he was accused of murdering a competitor before the charges were dropped - and when threats on his life led him to wear a bulletproof vest and move his family to Switzerland.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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