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The Top 20 Most Expensive Divorces of All Time
Divorce can be a trying, frustrating and expensive process for anyone. Just how expensive a divorce is may depend on the assets being divided. Here are the 20 largest divorce settlements:
20. Steven Spielberg and Amy Irving: $100 million
A California judge refused to recognize the couples prenuptial agreement scrawled on a napkin and awarded Irving $100 million after the four years of marriage in 1989, according to Forbes.
Spielberg and Irving dated from 1976 to 1979 when she broke up with him to date Willie Nelson. The two got back together and married in 1985.
19. Greg Norman and Laura Andrassy: $103 million
After 25 years of marriage, the Australian golfer split from his wife, before marrying former #1 ranked tennis player Chris Evert. His marriage to Evert only lasted 15 months; he moved on to marry his interior designer Kirsten Kutner in November 2010. Norman, known as “The Shark”, has become an entrepreneur with ventures in boating, wines, among others.
18. Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren: $110 million
From the moment Woods crashed his Escalade into the tree outside his Florida home in 2009, it was impossible to ignore the events leading up to his divorce after the couple's six years of marriage.
The New York Daily News reported that Elin received $110 million in the divorce.
17. Harrison Ford and Melissa Mathison: $118 million
Hollywood icon Harrison Ford was married to Apocalypse Now screenwriter Melissa Mathison for 18 years. A year after his separation, he began dating Ally McBeal’s Calista Flockhart. They married in June 2010. His continued box office success has helped him recover from the sizable payment made to Mathison.
16. Frank and Jamie McCourt: $130 million
In what became known as the "Dodgers Divorce," former Los Angeles Dodgers owner and chairman Frank McCourt gave ex-wife Jamie $130 million, and Jamie relinquished her ownership stake in the team, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The couple, who had been married for 30 years, split in 2009.
15. Neil Diamond and Marcia Murphey: $150 million
The American singer-songwriter divorced his wife after 25 years of marriage. TV production assistant Marcia Murphey left with half of his $300 million fortune. This was Diamond’s second marriage and he said that Murphey was “worth every penny”. The singer later married his manager, Katie McNeil, on April 12, 2012.
14. Samathur Li Kin-kan and Florence Tsang Chiu-wing: $154 million
Samathur Li Kin-kan, a Hong Kong property tycoon and billionaire heir, was ordered by a court to pay $154 million to his ex-wife, Florence Tsang Chiu-wing, according to UPI.
The couple were married in 2000 and divorced in 2008. It's believed to be the biggest divorce settlement ever filed in Asia.
13. Boris Berezovsky and Galina Besharova: Estimated $163 million
Berezovksy, a Russian oligarch who made his fortune in the auto and oil industries, reached a settlement with his former wife in 2011. The couple had been estranged for 16 of their 18 years of marriage, according to The Guardian.
While no final sum has been officially reported, it's understood that the settlement was more than $163 million, The Guardian reported at the time. And The Telegraph reports that the settlement could have been as high as $359 million.
12. Michael and Maya Polsky: $184 million
In 2007, after the Polskys were married for 31 years, Maya filed for divorce. The couple married in the Ukraine in 1975 and came to the United States a year later.
Polsky, the founder, president and CEO of Invenergy LLC, gave half of his estate to Maya in the settlement, according to the AP.
11. Charles Edgar and Marlene Fipke: $200 million
Canadian prospector and diamond magnate Charles Edgar Fipke divorced in 2000. Marlene’s settlement included a 20% share of the mine. Charles Fipke currently breeds thoroughbred racehorses.
10. Michael and Juanita Jordan: in excess of $260 million
Basketball legend Michael Jordan married Juanita in 1989. She filed for divorce in 2002, before reconciling. Unfortunately, divorce papers were filed again in 2006. In 2011, Jordan proposed to Cuban-model Yvette Prieto. Forbes Magazine in 2010 listed Michael Jordan as the 20th most powerful celebrity in the world. Along with his numerous endorsement deals, Jordan is currently the majority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats.
9. Roman and Irina Abramovich: $300 million
Russian oligarch Abramovich married Irina in 1991, and the couple had five children according to ABC News.
The couple, married for 16 years, tied the knot in Russia before Abramovich secured the majority of his wealth. They divorced following growing speculation of Roman dating 24-year-old model, Daria Zhukova, who had Abramovich's sixth child in 2009.
8. Robert and Sheila Johnson: $400 million
Robert L. and Sheila Johnson built their fortune together over 33 years of marriage from 1969-2002 with BET, which Robert Johnson founded in 1980. BET sold to Viacom for $3 billion, according to Black Enterprise.
Following the divorce, Shelia Johnson married Arlington County Circuit Court Chief Judge William T. Newman, who presided over her divorce, according to The Daily Beast.
7. Mel and Robyn Gibson: $425 million
Mel Gibson accrued his fortune through his success in Hollywood. His wife Robyn had been a part of that success for 26 years. The Lethal Weapon actor never signed a prenuptial agreement and under California Law, Robyn was awarded half of his estimated $850 million wealth. The controversial actor has since had a very toxic relationship with Russian pianist Oksana Grigorieva.
6. Craig and Wendy McCaw: $460 million plus
After meeting in Stanford University, the couple married and went on to start a cable TV company (which sold for $755 million) and built and sold a cellphone company to AT&T for $12 billion. Wendy used a small portion of her settlement money to help bring the killer whale Keiko of “Free Willy” fame back to the wild. Craig McCaw later married the former United States Ambassador to Austria, Susan Rasinski. McCaw is also famous for buying the most expensive car ever sold: a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, originally built for Sir Stirling Moss. He paid $35 million for it.
5. Stephen and Elaine Wynn: $740 million
Stephen and Elaine Wynn really tried to make things work. Their marriage saga started in 1963, when the college sweethearts tied the knot. Twenty years later, in 1986, the couple divorced and remarried just five years later, the AP reported.
But Stephen and Elaine just weren't meant to be and got divorced again in 2009. Under the settlement, she reportedly received $741 million in company stock.
4. Adnan and Soraya Khashoggi: $850 million
Soraya, formerly Sandra, sued the Saudi businessman for $2.54 billion in the divorce. Ultimately, she walked away with $850 million. Adnan had made his money buying and selling arms for the Saudi Royal family. He later created Triad, based in the tax exempt Switzerland, which owns banks, hotels and real estate around the world. The former richest man in the world went on to marry his second wife Lamia (formerly Laura Biancolini before converting to Islam).
3. Bernie and Slavia Ecclestone: $1 – 1.2 billion
The president and CEO of Formula One was married to his second wife Slavia for 24 years. Despite their 2009 divorce, the Forbes World’s Billionaires List of 2011 ranked Ecclestone as the 4th richest person in the UK with an estimated fortune of $4.2 billion. He later married Fabiana Flosi in August 2012.
2. Rupert and Anna Murdoch: $1.7 billion
The Australian media mogul is the founder, Chairman and CEO of global media holding company News Corporation. He married his second wife Anna, a Scottish-born journalist, in 1967. They divorced in June 1999. 17 days later, he married Wendi Deng. In 2011, Forbes estimated Murdoch’s wealth at $8.3 billion.
1. Alec and Jocelyn Wildenstein: $2.5 billion
Alec Wildenstein, a family member of wealthy art dealers, met Jocelyn while in their 30’s. Their divorce was due to Alec’s infidelity and Jocelyn’s love for plastic surgery. Jocelyn is rumored to have spent $4 million in plastic surgery to look more “cat-like” because of Alec’s love for big cats. The divorce judge stipulated that Jocelyn could not use her alimony payments for further cosmetic surgery. She received $2.5 billion in the settlement and $100 million each year for 13 years.
While these divorce settlements are not typical, the issues involved are. Whether dividing billions of dollars in assets, or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, important issues of valuation, characterization and division need to be addressed. There may or may not be issues of child or spousal support to consider and the guidance of an experienced family law attorney is strongly recommended.
While no former clients of our firm appear on the list above, we have extensive experience dealing with the valuation, characterization and division of marital assets involving marital estates both large and small. For a free 1 hour consultation on these issues, please contact The Law Office of Matthew J. Rudy.
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