A hedge fund billionaire’s bid to impost a blanket bank on reporting of his divorce has been rejected by Mrs Justice Roberts at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
Christopher Hohn had tried to impose a ban on media coverage of his pending divorce from wife Jamie. While divorces in England are typically heard in private, details of the Hohns’ separation were discussed in a Court of Appeal ruling last month.
The test case significantly extends the media’s ability to report on matrimonial hearings. Mrs Justice Roberts has permitted everything conducted in a private hearing to be published for the first time – apart from financial information relating to the couple’s personal or business affairs.
Those financial matters that have already been published can also be re-reported.
Hohn’s wife, Jamie Cooper-Hohn, filed for divorce in 2012 after 17 years of marriage. Hohn says his wife is entitled to 25 percent of their marital assets because he made a ‘special contribution’ to the marriage. She is seeking half.
As reported by Bloomberg, Hohn said: “I’ve created all the wealth – the expertise, the effort, the sweat and blood – and the law is, as I read it, that a ‘special contribution’ applies.”
Until now journalists have been allowed to sit in private divorce hearings but unable to report most of what they witnessed. If Monday’s judgment sets a precedent – which might still be appealed – it will mean that all hearings will be reportable save for any restrictions a judge imposes case by case.
The court was told there were already 18 separate confidentiality agreements in force for the divorce.
According to court documents , Mr Hohn is well-known for his activist investing, buying large stakes in companies and pressuring management to make changes that might drive up the share price.
His hedge fund, known as TCI, has over £5 billion in assets under management. Meanwhile, he has also given more than £2 billion of the money he has made to the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, a charity founded by the couple, who met at Harvard university. Jamie Cooper-Hohn ran the Foundation as chief executive until last year. Her lawyers argue that she is entitled to half the property, shares and businesses held by her husband. The dispute extends to the true value of their personal wealth.
Hohn testified yesterday that he’s as dedicated to philanthropy as his wife, and takes particular interest in fighting climate change and human trafficking. He became interested in donating after he worked in the Philippines when he was twenty, Bloomberg reported, and “saw children eating from garbage dumps,”
“My life isn’t dedicated to making money,” he said. “I live a very simple life. I live it day to day and I learned very early on that you can’t take it with you and it doesn’t bring you happiness.”
Photo of London by Mike_fleming via Flickr