Tuesday, April 21, 2009

International: 100 million dollar German Heiress seeks to enforce prenup

This from the UK's Telegraph April 21, 2009

One of Germany's richest women, Katrin Radmacher, is to use the British courts in an attempt to enforce a prenuptial agreement which would leave her ex-husband without a penny of her £100 million fortune.

Fiona Shackleton
Divorce lawyer Fiona Shackleton has been hired by Nicolas Granatino to oppose his ex-wife Katrin Radmacher

In a landmark case, Miss Radmacher, a paper industry heiress, will argue that Nicolas Granatino is bound by an agreement he signed before their marriage in 1998 in which both parties agreed not to make any claim on the other if they divorced.

If she is successful, it could result in prenuptial contracts becoming legally binding under English law for the first time.

Mr Granatino, 38, who gave up his job as an investment banker to become a £30,000 a year researcher at Oxford University, has already been awarded a £5.6 million lump sum following a High Court hearing last July.

On that occasion Mrs Justice Baron ruled that it would be "manifestly unfair" to hold Mr Granatino to the contract, which was signed in Germany before the couple married in London.

Miss Radmacher, 39, will take the case to the Court of Appeal next week, but her legal team will face a formidable barrier in the form of Fiona Shackleton and Nicholas Mostyn QC, the lawyers who represented Sir Paul McCartney in his divorce from Heather Mills and who have been hired by French-born Mr Granatino.

The couple met in Tramp, the members-only nightclub in Mayfair, when Mr Granatino was working as a £320,000 a year merchant banker for JP Morgan, and his wife was running a clothes shop in Knightsbridge with her sister. The couple went on to have two daughters now aged nine and six.

Problems began in 2003 when Mr Granatino decided on a change of career and took up a lowly-paid post as a biotechnology researcher at Oxford, and the couple divorced in 2006.

At the previous hearing, Mrs Justice Baron heard that the husband had "virtually no assets" whilst his ex-wife had £54m in liquid assets and another £52m in capital assets, giving her an annual income of £2m.

Although the judge recognised that the prenuptial agreement would have been fully enforceable in Germany or France, they have never been legally binding here, and she said that the arrival of the couple's children had "so changed the landscape" that it should be set aside, and awarded Mr Granatino £5,560,000.

She also noted that the husband had not received independent legal advice before signing the contract and his wife had not disclosed the full extent of her assets at the time.

Miss Radmacher, meanwhile, accused her husband of deliberately delaying his doctorate to "maximise his claim" and said that if he "wishes to be an academic he must live as such".

Miss Radmacher was granted leave to appeal after two judges ruled that she had an "arguable case" that her husband should only be entitled to maintenance payments to cover the cost of looking after the couple's daughters, who spend a third of their time with their father and the remainder with their mother in Düsseldorf.

The outcome of the case will be keenly anticipated by divorce lawyers in London, seen as the divorce capital of the world because of the number of wealthy foreign couples who choose to make their homes here.

English courts tend to protect the weaker financial party in divorce cases, and most experts expect Miss Radmacher to fail.

Julian Lipson, head of family law at Withers, said: "The Court of Appeal will need to weigh up the conundrum between respecting the autonomy of parties to agree a financial settlement at the outset of their marriage, and the need for state interference at the time of divorce to protect the financially weaker party and any children.

"It is a political hot potato for one European member state to be saying that it will not respect a legally binding contract entered into in another, but the English court tends to be paternalistic in protecting divorcing spouses from themselves."

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Credit-crunched tycoon loses bid to reduce £11.2million divorce payout

This from the Daily Mail of London

A City tycoon who claimed his £11.2million divorce payout should be renegotiated because he had been hit by the credit crunch was today told that he could not 're-write' the deal.
Brian Myerson, 50, had told the Court of Appeal that the global economic crisis had taken a heavy toll on his assets following his divorce from his wife Ingrid.
The Johannesburg-born investor and his sculptor wife divorced in March last year, and he was ordered to pay her 43 per cent of the total £25.8million assets of the marriage, including their luxury South African beach house.
But polo-playing Mr Myerson decided to take the bulk of his £14.6million cut in share in investment company Principle Capital Holdings.
As the credit crunch tightened its grip, the businessman saw the value of his shares plummet.
In a case that was watched eagerly by wealthy business folk facing similar woes, he told the court last month that if he complied with the order, he would be half a million pounds out of pocket.
Today, three appeal judges dismissed his challenge, saying the 'natural process of price fluctuation, however dramatic' did not satisfy the legal test for a change in a settlement.
They said that although the appeal had its 'dramatic features', its resolution was 'not difficult'.
Lord Justice Thorpe, in the written judgement, said: 'The husband, with all knowledge both public and private, agreed to an asset division which left him captain of the ship, certain to keep for himself whatever profits or gains his enterprise and experience would achieve in the years ahead.'

Ingrid Myerson leaves the High Court
In a rhetorical conclusion he added: 'When a businessman takes a speculative position in compromising his wife's claims, why should the court subsequently relieve him of the consequences of his speculation by re-writing the bargain at his behest.'
In a cautionary note for anyone considering following the executive chairman's actions he said many could be contemplating an attempt to reopen settlements after encountering 'financial eclipse', but he added: 'They would be well advised to heed the warning that very few successful applications have been reported.'
He did however offer some hope for My Myerson, pointing out that he still enjoyed control of his company and the 'opportunities that go with it'.
'The market place may take a pessimistic view of his future prospects. He may not share the market place view. Unusual opportunities are created for the most astute in a bear market,' said the judge.
Neither of the Myersons were in court to hear the judgement.
But a spokesman for the tycoon said: 'Mr Myerson is disappointed that the court failed to recognise that the economic downturn had rendered his divorce settlement unfair.
'The aim of Mr Myerson's appeal has always been to ensure that the division of assets with his ex-wife was equitable and he will now take his appeal to the House of Lords.'
Before the divorce, the couple, who married in December 1982 and who have two sons and a daughter, lived in a £5million home in Hampstead, north London.
Mr Myerson, who bought an £8million home in Geneva after the divorce, agreed to pay his former wife £9.5million in instalments over four years. She also received a property in South Africa, which was worth £1.5million.
Mr Myerson, the court heard, had property assets, one of which he sold to cover the first instalment of the lump sum, £7million paid in April 2008.
He has four further equal instalments of £625,000 to pay over the next four years.
But Mr Myerson's share stake, once standing at £15million and rising as the price reached £3 per share, had dramatically fallen with the value per share at the date of the initial Court of Appeal hearing standing at 27.5 pence.
His spokesman said yesterday that the high court would be hearing a freestanding application to cancel the further payment due to his ex-wife under the terms of the existing settlement.
'That hearing will be in private,' he said.

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Credit-crunched tycoon loses bid to reduce £11.2million divorce payout