SAN DIEGO – June 18, 2012 – The divorce of Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie has been in the headlines more than your typical Big Public Divorce. The realization that the Dodgers would need to be sold so that the ownership of the team could be divested for a divorce settlement caused much consternation among baseball fans.
Jamie McCourt accepted a settlement of $131 million last fall. In May, McCourt’s sale of the team was finalized to a group led by former basketball star Magic Johnson for $2 billion. While it makes Jamie McCourt’s payout seem a little small, it is possible she wanted to avoid expensive, complicated and public litigation to get more money. Most people I know could live pretty well even in Los Angeles on $131 million.
But when you’re getting divorced from a business mogul, there is no doubt that settlements can reach skyscraper high amounts. Take a look at the top ten settlements: not a pop star or actor in the bunch.
Ukrainian Michael Polsky and his wife Maya came to the United States in 1976 with a few suitcases and $500 in case. Polsky struck it rich in the independent energy generation industry. He sold his first company in 2000, but after Maya filed for divorce in 2003 he gave up half the assets, $184 million, to Maya in a divorce settlement in 2006. No doubt this keeps her plenty warm at night.
Charles Edgar (Chuck) Fipke is a prospector who discovered the existence of diamonds in Canada’s Northwest Territories. His diamond mining company, Ekati Diamond Mine has made his one of Canada’s richest people and a multimillionaire. Fipke’s wife Marlene had been with him since he began searching for the diamonds in the 1970s. Their divorce in 2000 is Canada’s largest divorce settlement. Marlene received $200 including $120 million cash plus a 20 percent share of the mine, making her the single largest shareholder.
Roman Abramovich is one of the richest men in Russia, a self-made billionaire who began buying and selling goods on the black market in the former Soviet Union, eventually turning legitimate and establishing a private investment company. He owns the English Premier league soccer team Chelsea Football Club. Forbes estimates his fortune at $12.1 million, making him the 68th richest person in the world. When he divorced his wife Irina, there were estimates it might make Irina the world’s richest divorcee with a payout of as much as $1 billion. But apparently she settled for a mere $300 million to keep things out of the tabloid press. Such a deal.
Robert Johnson, is the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television along with his wife Sheila. He became America’s first African-American billionaire. Impressive. Not so impressive: after being married for 30 years, Johnson and his wife Sheila decided to divorce in 2000. The divorce settlement amount: $400 million. Sheila didn’t let it slow her down. She got remarried three years later to Arlington County Circuit Court Chief Judge William T. Newman – the same judge that was in charge of her divorce case.
Craig and Wendy McCaw met as students at Stanford University when she became his tutor. They married one year after graduation in 1974. Together, they started a cable TV company, sold it for $755 million, and then built a cellphone empire. Their business was eventually sold to AT&T in 1981 for $12 billion. The two divorced in 1995 after 21 years of marriage. Wendy walked away with $460 million, which she said she needed to support her $200,000 per month budget. McCaw also used part of the money to help return the killer whale Keiko, the star of the movie “Free Willy,” back to the wild.
You can’t fault Las Vegas casino and hotel magnate Stephen Wynn and his wife Elaine for giving their marriage every opportunity to succeed – twice. The pair met as college sweethearts and got married in 1963. They built up their business together, then divorced 23 years later in 1986, but it didn’t stick. The Wynns remarried in 2004, made it another five years, then filed for divorce a second time in 2009. This time it cost Stephen Wynn $740 million, perhaps due to talk that the marriage broke up due to his after-hours room service with another woman.
Now let’s talk real money. Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi bought and sold arms for the Saudi royal family. He took the proceeds and started his company Triad. The company is based in Switzerland and owns banks, hotels, and real estate around the world. Khashoggi married his wife Soraya, an Englishwoman born Sandra who converted to Islam, in 1961. They were divorced in 1982, and while the exact settlement amount isn’t know, it is estimated to be $874 million. At the time he was thought to be the world’s richest man, with a peak fortune of $40 billion in the early 1980s.
Rupert Murdoch does everything big and divorce is no exception. The Australian born U.S. citizen and media mogul, chairman and CEO of the News Corporation, married Anna Murdoch in 1967 after divorcing his first wife of 11 years, Patricia. They were married for 32 years and had three children. Their divorce was amicable, and Murdoch agreed to pay out $1.7 billion to Anna. Just 17 days after their divorce was final in 1999, Murdoch married Chinese-American businesswoman Wendi Deng, who is 38 years his junior. At the time they were 69 and 31. He is now 81, she is 43. They have two children.
They all should have taken lessons from Donald Trump. His wife Ivana walked away with a mere $25 million when The Donald divorced her in 1992, thanks to a pre-nuptial agreement signed in 1977 that limited any divorce settlement to a maximum of $25 million. At the time, The Donald had an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion. Still, Ivana made out better than Marla Maples, to whom Trump was briefly married. She got a mere $1 million. Prenuptial? Of course.
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra.
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