The ex-wife of a wealthy Swedish property developer has returned to court seeking a larger financial settlement.
Prior to the divorce, Gerard Versteegh had an estimated fortune of £273 million. He and wife Camilla were married for 21 years and had three children together before a “traumatic” breakup in 2014. After marrying in Stockholm, the couple moved to London, eventually living in a £60 million Kensington mansion.
In January 2017 Mrs Versteegh was awarded no less than £90 million by High Court Judge Sir Peter Singer. This represented around a third of the couple’s wealth and reflected the fact that she had signed a prenuptial agreement the day before the 1993 wedding. The Judge also cited the fact that Brexit could affect the overall value of Mr Versteegh’s property empire.
But she has now argued that “justice and fairness demands” she receive an additional £25 million. At a Court of Appeal hearing her barrister claimed she had not understood the implications of the prenuptial agreement, which had been written in “obscure” language, and, he added, she had signed it without legal advice.
A total award of around £115 million would be closer to an equal division of assets, the barrister insisted: the usual starting point of English courts in divorce cases.
Tim Bishop QC said:
“The right of both parties to share equally in the fruits of the partnership, absent some good reason to the contrary, is at the heart of modern family law. In practice the judge allowed the pre-marital agreement to displace the sharing principle.”
By contrast, her ex-husband’s barrister, Lewis Marks QC, said the wife’s settlement had been “very generous”, given the fact that she had signed a prenuptial agreement. He noted:
“Pre-marital agreements in Sweden are commonplace and binding.”
Mr Marks continued:
“We had tacitly, if not explicitly, accepted that it might be unfair to hold the wife to the full rigours of the agreement by eliminating any entitlement to a share of the accumulated wealth. But it provided a justification for a less generous sharing.”
Thanks to the settlement, she had acquired, Mr Marks insisted, “a very substantial and liquid fortune, very much more than sufficient to meet her needs, real or imagined.
“That her share is not equal to the husband’s, in circumstances where she entered into an agreement to stake no claim to a share in any of his assets…does not demonstrate any error of approach by the judge to his central task in the case.”
The case continues.
Photo by Klovovi via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence