News Column

Judge rejects tycoon's bid to stop reporting of UK's biggest divorce case

July 8, 2014

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent



An attempt by a hedge fund tycoon to impose a blanket ban on reporting the UK's wealthiest divorce case has been rejected by a high court judge.

In a test case that significantly expands 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 be re-reported.

Jamie Cooper-Hohn, 49, the American wife of Sir Christopher Hohn, 47, is seeking hundreds of millions of pounds in what will be the largest divorce award made by a British court. Her lawyers argue that she is entitled to half the property, shares and businesses held by her husband. The couple have four children, including triplets. They were married for 17 years before she petitioned for divorce in March 2012.

The dispute extends to the true value of their personal wealth, which, the court has heard, is worth at least $1.3bn (pounds 760m). Cooper-Hohn's lawyers argue that she is entitled to a 50/50 split; his lawyers have offered her only 25% of the holdings, on the grounds that he has made a special contribution to their wealth.

Hohn, the son of a Jamaican car mechanic, attended Southampton University and then Harvard. He runs The Children's Investment (TCI) fund management UK, a hedge fund whose profits are mainly returned to a charitable foundation. TCI controls investments worth about $8bn.

The charity established by Hohn and his wife, the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), is believed to hold $4.3bn. She is the chair of the fund. The couple have been described as the UK's most generous philanthropists. Last year, during a summit hosted by David Cameron CIFF pledged to spend more than pounds 500m tackling childhood malnutrition around the world. It is one of the world's largest private charities.

After an appeal court hearing last month, which dismissed expert evidence on the value of hedge fund management companies, lawyers for the couple began presenting their cases in the family division of the high court last week. Much of that detail has only just been made reportable.

The couple have said they live relatively modest lives, given their wealth. She denies enjoying a jet-set lifestyle; he has described it as being more of a Swatch than Rolex lifestyle.

The Hohns, who met at Harvard University, married in 1985. Much of their personal wealth is in the form of a stake in the TCI hedge fund.

She claims the holding is worth pounds 870m; his lawyers insist it amounts to only pounds 64.3m.

The court has heard that the couple's private assets are comprised of investments in TCI of $1.15bn, other disputed TCI entities, investments of about $30m , pensions worth about $85m and properties worth $36m.

Until now journalists have been allowed to sit in private divorce hearings but unable to report most of what they witnessed. If yesterday's judgment sets a precedent - it could still face appeal - it will mean that all hearings will be reportable save for any restrictions a judge imposes case by case.

The UK has gained a reputation as the divorce capital of the world because of the multimillion-pound settlements awarded to ex-wives. The largest payout to date is the estimated pounds 100m-200m believed to have been made to Galina Besharova by Boris Berezovsky, the exiled Russian oligarch who was found dead last year.

The case continues.

$8bn

The value of investments controlled by The Children's Investment hedge fund, which is run by Sir Christopher Hohn


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Source: Guardian (UK)


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