Divorce Could Cost Russian Mogul a Hefty $8.5 Billion
In the world of international high-stakes divorce, here’s one for the books: A Russian tycoon named Vladimir Potanin could be on the hook for about CDN$8.5 billion in his divorce from his wife Natalia Potanina. And while it’s noteworthy for the huge sums of money at stake, the case also hit the news because Natalia – who now lives in London, England – persuaded an English Appeal Court to let her have the case heard there.
The Russian pair, who started dating at age 17, actually divorced in 2014 after spending 30 years together. During their early days as newlyweds, they were not well off; however Vladimir was able to accumulate vast wealth due to the opportunities in Russia during the 1990s. They owned a Moscow mansion and two yachts, and they had the jet-setting lifestyle to match it.
However, things took a sharp and unexpected turn for Natalia in 2013 when Vladimir announced over dinner that their marriage was over. Natalia now claims that she is entitled to significantly more than the CDN$51.25 million she was awarded at that time of their subsequent divorce settlement. She claims that despite her key role in helping Vladimir earn his CDN$34 billion fortune – which was mainly in the metals industry – she was shortchanged in her divorce award because of his “wealth, power and influence” in Russia. She complains she did not receive a fair hearing in that country, and seeks to obtain one in England where she now lives.
Vladimir had countered those claims by noting that he has actually given her more than CDN$100 million over the years, plus nearly another CDN$9 million in child support. He has now remarried to a second wife.
Natalia’s success in getting a U.K. court hearing comes on the heels of an earlier failed attempt; in late 2019 a High Court judge rejected her bid to revisit the settlement, finding she was engaging in “divorce tourism”. In the second ruling, the Appeal Court judge conceded that the CDN$51 million certainly made Natalia a “rich woman”, but noted that the amount was “relative”. t represented “only a tiny proportion of the vast wealth” of the family, all of which had been accumulated during the couple’s very long marriage. Plus, given Natalia’s current age of 58, the money would not be nearly sufficient to keep her in the opulent lifestyle to which they were both accustomed during their time together.
From a legal perspective, it’s an interesting case because of the U.K. court’s willingness to assume jurisdiction and re-open the divorce award in these unusual circumstances. And as far as the monetary aspects go, it could very well be the highest dollar-value divorce case in U.K. history.
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