Court of Appeal rules against millionaire ex-market trader

Cohabitation|July 16th 2015

The Court of Appeal has ruled against millionaire ex-market trader Michael Harris in his fight to claim a half-share on two properties owned by his ex-partner.

Mr Harris, who modelled himself on Only Fools and Horses character Del Boy, lost his £900,000 divorce case after Lord Justice Sales found that Mr Harris had no right to claim either of the properties owned by his ex-partner, Linda Capehorn.

Mr Harris, 68 and Miss Capehorn, 55 had built a market trading business into a frozen food company worth over £1.8 million, and went on to buy personalised car number plates DEL 80Y and BOY 51E costing £70,000. However, their relationship failed in 2001 when Miss Capehorn left Mr Harris amidst allegations that he was a ‘serial womaniser’. Miss Capehorn took their son with her when she left.

Mr Harris had been the driving force behind the business, but in 1991 he was declared bankrupt. Subsequently, Miss Capehorn opened her own business and employed Mr Harris as manager. In 1993 she bought her childhood home, Sunnyside Farm, from her parents and the headquarters of the business were transferred to the farm. Miss Capehorn retained ownership of the business when Mr Harris was discharged from bankruptcy in 1994.

Despite the relationship breakdown in 2001, the court heard that Miss Capehorn did not want her former partner to leave their relationship empty handed. Therefore, in 2007 she transferred the business to a company in Mr Harris’ name. In return he was to pay her £750 per week.

In 2012 Mr Harris sacked Miss Capehorn. The issue before the Court of Appeal was that Mr Harris claimed the couple had also agreed that he should have a share in Miss Capehorn’s two Bedfordshire properties, one of which was her childhood home, Sunnyside Farm. Miss Capehorn denied such an agreement had ever been reached.

The case originally went before the Central London County Court where it was ruled that Mr Harris was due a 25 per cent share of Sunnyside Farm only.

This ruling has now been overturned in the Court of Appeal. Lord Justice Sales said,

“Miss Capehorn is the sole, legal and beneficial interest owner of Sunnyside and Beaumont Road – and Mr Harris has no valid claim to an interest in either.”

The judges ruled that Miss Capehorn retained ownership of the two properties, which are jointly worth approximately £900,000. Mr Harris will keep the business which is valued at around £415,000. Because the headquarters of the at Sunnyside business are still based Farm, Mr Harris was instructed to pay Miss Capehorn £750 per week as long as his business continues to be based there. Additionally, the judges ruled that Mr Harris pay his ex-partner £62,300 in arrears.

The full judgment is available here.

Correction: This article previously referred to the couple as ex-husband and wife. They never married but did live together. A hat-tip to commenter Dr Brian Sloan for pointing this out.

Author: Stowe Family Law

Comments(3)

  1. Dr Brian Sloan says:

    The judgment in this case has been released (Capehorn v Harris [2015] EWCA Civ 955), and it seems that the couple were cohabitants rather than spouses. It was not therefore a divorce case at all, and rather concerned the common intention constructive trust.

  2. stitchedup says:

    Constructive trusts…. Isn’t it only women that can claim those? Stack vs dowden, man claims…. No chance, woman claims every chance.

  3. Luke says:

    As they weren’t married the whole claim he is making is ridiculous, but then constructive trusts are ridiculous, it is a national scandal that family law and property law are not taught in schools – but the reason is obvious – only the general public (usually the poor and ignorant) would benefit from avoiding all this nonsense. Nope, let’s keep on prioritising things like pottery and religious education – that makes sense.

    How the original judge gave him a 25% share on one of the properties based on effectively NOTHING is mind boggling…

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