Special Contribution Means Asset Division Unequal
An attempt to achieve an equal split of assets in a ‘mega-rich’ divorce case failed recently due to the husband’s ‘special contribution’ to the family wealth.
Sir Martin Sorrell was a graduate of Cambridge, held an MBA from Harvard and had been a director of some highly successful companies. He had made a fortune of over £70m and was earning well over £1m a year when he divorced his wife. Although she had never worked, she claimed a half share in their assets, producing several hundred pages of evidence of her contribution to the marriage.
Recent case law has not been kind to divorcing partners who claim that a special contribution has been made by them. However, in this case, Sir Martin’s glittering business career had led to him being, in the words of the judge, ‘regarded within his field and within the wider business community as one of the most exceptional and talented businessmen’.
Interestingly, the judge refused to rule that the value of a share option scheme, which had been entered into after the marriage ended, was not to be included in the assets of the marriage for the purposes of the financial settlement and that no discount should apply to share options which had been granted to him during the marriage but the exercise dates of which had been deferred until after the marriage ended. The judge also discounted evidence brought by Lady Sorrell of her husband’s bad behaviour and lack of contribution to the family as a father.
Sir Martin’s argument that the wealth of the family was due to his ‘special contribution’ was accepted and the division of assets was set at 60 per cent to him and 40 per cent to Lady Sorrell.
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