22 January 2010

Are Pre-Nups Worth The Paper They’re Written On ?

I had something else lined up for today but as I read about the latest high-profile divorce, I got angrier and angrier and just had to comment.

Lisa Tchenguiz, 43 is a sister of the Tchenguiz brothers, Iranian Jews, who after an initial guarantee from their father, went on to create one of the UK’s largest property empires.

In an average month the brothers spend about £100m on property and they also bid on most of the bigger London properties that come to market, such as the £350m Berkeley Square Estate and the £300m Shell-Mex House. They are worth hundreds of millions of pounds. And that’s just the brothers – the old man of the family is also a wealthy individual.

So six years ago when Lisa was contemplating marriage to a certain Mr Vivian Imerman (see ‘happy’ couple above), who had already made a few bob in the food and drinks industry, Lisa’s brothers, persuaded the marrying couple to have a pre- nuptial contract, essentially to protect the Tchenguiz family fortune. Now just how their sister marrying might have put the family fortune at risk I don’t know unless Lisa was due to inherit a slice of the family pie if either her father or brothers died. Anyway, Mr Immerman happily signed the pre-nup and that was that.

Nine years later, the warring couple are battling it out in London’s divorce courts and she wants a cool £100 million to walk away (the judge said it was the worst case he’d come across in 30 years !!). They’ve already racked up £5 million in legal fees.

He’s grabbed her bullet-proof Rolls Royce and her brothers have thrown him out of the Mayfair offices they allowed him to use and she’s had her brothers’ IT specialists hack into his computer and printed off thousands of documents purporting to show his true wealth which, unusually in a divorce battle, he’s not trying to hide.

Despite the pre-nup protecting her family’s fortune, she wants £100 million of her husband’s hard earned cash.

Now I know that until recently, pre-nups were not readily accepted in UK divorce cases and if they were considered, it was only to give the presiding judge a view on what the respective parties were trying to protect. However, pre-nups are now being given greater credence but just how a guy can be ‘forced’ into signing a pre-nup to protect his wife-to-be’s assets and then be taken to the cleaners by her when he’s made some money is beyond me.

Or am I just being naïve and chauvinistic or slightly bitter from a previous relationship which cost me the proverbial arm and a leg?

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