Russian businessman wins Britain's biggest divorce court fight

Russian billionaire’s ex-wife who demanded £5BILLION more from her ex-husband after she got ‘just’ £65million in divorce deal loses her legal battle – and now won’t get a penny more

  • Natalia Potanina took acrimonious split with Vladimir Potanin to the High Court 
  • Russian oligarch made his fortune in metals after collapse of the Soviet Union
  • Mr Justice Cohen said Ms Potanina’s London cash claim should be dismissed 
  • Ms Potanina’s lawyers said she aimed to appeal 

Natalia Potanina has been denied is a £5bn payout from her ex-husband in London’s High Court

The ex-wife of a Russian oligarch has been refused permission to pursue a legal bid for a third of his £15 billion fortune after a judge ruled that the $84 million she received when they divorced did not make her a ‘victim of an injustice.’

Natalia Potanina, 58 was attempting to secure an increased pay out through English courts from her former husband, Vladimir Potanin – Russia’s second richest man, claiming that the initial amount she received left her facing ‘hardship’ and did not meet her ‘reasonable needs.’

Ms Potanina claimed that she was only given $41.5 million when the couple divorced in 2014 but deserved considerably more because of the role she played in helping to build her husband’s extensive business empire.

She was attempting to launch a case in the English courts, where divorce pay outs are notoriously high, protesting that when she tried in Russia she got considerably less because of her husband’s ‘wealth, power and influence,’ which denied her a fair settlement.

She also alleged that he had secreted his vast wealth out of her reach in a complex web of offshore companies while pleading to judges in Moscow that he had virtually no assets.

Lawyers acting for her husband took the matter to the High Court in London, asking for her English legal bid to be thrown out during a three-day hearing which took place last month.

Delivering his judgment, Mr Justice Cohen said that the claim that Mrs Potanina received $41.5 million was ‘untrue and that the real figure was actually over $84 million. In addition to this, she also received $7.3 million in child maintenance. She also purchased a home in Long Island, New York, soon after the divorce, which is worth $6.5 million.

Referring to the couple as H and W (husband and wife, respectively) in his judgment Justice Cohen added: ‘To most people it would seem inconceivable that someone who has received an award of $40-80 million could argue that reasonable needs have not been met, but each case is fact-specific and I accept that W could argue that her reasonable needs have not been met. However, the other 16 factors mitigate strongly against her claim proceeding.

Natalia Potanina at the High Court in Central London on October 3. She and her oligarch former husband Vladimir Potanin, 58, had already divorced in Moscow

Sources in Russia claimed Natalia – who has three children with metal magnate Potanin – would demand £5.76bn in London, although her legal team has not commented on the case

‘Simply because W has suffered what she regards as a very significant injustice in that other country and has come to England after the breakdown of the marriage does not in itself make the case appropriate for determination in England and Wales.’

Mrs Potanina had also revealed to the court through documents that she was now only left with around £19 million, giving the bulk of her money to her sister in Moscow who helps look after their 99-year-old mother.

Both Ms Pontanina and her ex-husband had hired two of the country’s top divorce lawyers to argue their case.

He had secured the services of legendary divorce specialist Baroness Shackleton – dubbed the ‘Steel Magnolia’ for her charm and tough negotiating skills.Ms Potanina had enlisted Frances Hughes, a leading family law specialist and Charles Howard, QC.

If her quest to secure £5 billion of her husband’s wealth had been successful, it would have been the largest ever divorce pay out case in British legal history.

The couple have three grown up children. Mr Potanin made his wealth in metals following the break-up of the Soviet Union but has disputed that his total worth is in excess of £15 billion.

Potanin hired legendary divorce specialist Fiona Shackleton (above) – dubbed the ‘Steel Magnolia’ for her charm and tough negotiating skills – to defend him

The billionaire has vast wealth including his £150m superyacht, which is often seen in Monaco 

Justice Cohen noted: ‘The parties were not always wealthy, but from around the mid-1990s H was able to take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities that existed at that time in Russia to amass a fortune. It is unnecessary in this judgment to go into any details beyond saying that H became massively rich. The parties’ lavish lifestyle reflected his wealth which W puts, taking figures from published sources, at some $20 billion.’

Justice Cohen’s judgment also contained details of the breakdown of the marriage, with Ms Potanina declaring: ‘On 17th November 2013 after an ordinary family dinner, H told me that the marriage was over…my world fell apart. We had been together since we were 17; we had been married for 30 years…until that moment I thought we had a strong and happy marriage..I have not seen H since that night.’

Tycoon Vladimir Potanin – Russia’s second richest man – defeated his ex-wife Natalia in a long-running legal dispute in Moscow, but now brought her huge financial claim to Britain

Mr Justice Cohen also declared that he could not let Ms Pontanina pursue her case because she only had a tenuous link to England. Lawyers acting for her husband had claimed that she only moved to the country in 2014 for the specific reason of trying to get a higher pay out, describing her as a ‘divorce tourist.’

The judge suggested that if Mrs Potanina’s claim was allowed to proceed there would ‘effectively’ be ‘no limit to divorce tourism’. 

She currently lives in a central London flat which she purchased soon after arriving in the country for approximately £2.5 million.

The judge also noted that England was the fourth country in which she had initiated legal proceedings against her former husband. 

Justice Cohen noted: ‘At the request of Mr Howard QC, I point out that W is very disappointed at the outcome of this case and wishes to seek permission to appeal this judgment. It should therefore be read as not necessarily being the last word.’ 

Lawyers representing Mrs Potanina, who lives in London, said she was ‘very disappointed’, and added that she aimed to ask Court of Appeal judges in London to consider the case. 

Jilted Natalia, who has lived in London for several years, was denied a settlement in court today 




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