Top 5 most expensive divorces in history

High-profile celebrity divorces have often made the headlines over the years – from the weird and wonderful items couples wrangle over, to the significant costs behind the proceedings. But, when it comes to the world’s richest, just how much money is tied up in joint assets, and how is this reflected in the ensuing legal costs?

With the recent announcement of Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce, who share an estimated combined fortune of $124bn, we have been reflecting on some of the biggest and weirdest divorce cases that have hit the headlines.

Jeff Bezos v MacKenzie Scott – $68bn

It’ll likely come as little surprise that the 2019 divorce of Jeff Bezos, globally renowned ecommerce billionaire, steals the top spot for the most expensive settlement ever recorded, totaling an estimated mind-boggling $68 billion.

The pair’s “communal property” divorce – whereby property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage is treated as said spouse’s separate property – left the now Mrs Scott one quarter of the couple’s total Amazon fortune, making her the 3rd wealthiest woman on the planet.

Alec v Jocelyn Wildenstein – $3.8bn 

In second place is the divorce of Alec Wildenstein, French-American businessman and art dealer, who split from his wife of 21 years, Jocelyn Wildenstein, back in 1999.

The bitter dispute played out in court over 2 long years, during which time Mr Wildenstein famously cut off Joscelyn’s credit cards and pared her monthly allowance back by a third. The high-profile saga concluded with Mrs Wildenstein being awarded a $2.5bn settlement, in addition to annual installments of $100 million over a 13-year period, but on one unusual condition: that the money not be used to fund further cosmetic surgery.

Rupert Murdoch v Anna Murdoch Mann – $1.7bn

Finalising his divorce with the now Mrs Mann just a few weeks before his wedding to 3rd wife Wendi Deng, in 1999 Mr Murdoch was ordered to pay out an estimated $1.7bn in divorce settlements to his former wife – split as stipulated in their prenup. 

The divorce is known for its complexity, with Mrs Mann’s former executive board role at News Corp complicating the division of assets. Yet, despite intense media interest, the ex-couple managed to keep many of the details of their reportedly “amicable” settlement away from the eager eyes of the media.

Bernie v Slavica Ecclestone – $1.2bn

Not far behind in value is the 2009 separation of former F1 CEO, Bernie Ecclestone, and his ex-wife, Slavica. Since proceedings were finalised, it is thought that Mr Ecclestone has gone on to enjoy a maintenance payment of $100 million per month from Mrs Ecclestone’s trust fund.

With the settlement never reaching the public domain, there has been some speculation over its actual value – with initial reports placing it at $4 billion, rather than what some consider to be the more realistic figure of $1.2 billion.

Harold Hamm v Sue Ann Arnall – $975m

The final and most recent divorce in our list concerns that of Harold Hamm, American oil and gas tycoon, and ex-spouse Sue Ann Arnall, who parted ways in 2012 after 24 years of marriage.

Sue Ann did not cash in the eventual $975m settlement – which accounted for only a meagre 5% slice of Mr Hamm’s gross net worth – until 3 years after the initial Supreme Court order, after her legal team’s appeal to secure a more favorable financial outcome was rejected.

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