Slump-hit millionaire seeks to renegotiate divorce settlement

Cash-strapped tycoon goes to court over £4.7m payments
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The Independent Online

Jim Moore can't expect many hearts to bleed when he complains he is down to his last £3m. Nor will he endear himself to feminists when he says his financial woes are largely due to the harsh terms of his divorce.

Yet the story of Mr Moore's fall from riches to rags has a bitter resonance among the City's divorcees. Mr Moore, called the "Buy-to-let King" when his property investment empire was worth £135m, is going back to court try to reopen the divorce case which left him strapped for cash.

"I'm so worried about my financial position that I've had to represent myself in the court case," Mr Moore said. He is obliged to pay the former Mrs Moore £4.7m over the next three years – money he says he no longer has. "My efforts to raise money are being hampered by the harsh terms of the settlement which means my ex-wife can insist on implementing the agreement."

The case follows that of City investor Brian Myerson, who told the Court of Appeal last week that his wealth had been so badly hit by the recession that he could not afford £9.5m he owed his ex-wife from a divorce settlement. Mr Moore says he and Mr Myerson are two of a hidden number of once very wealthy men financially punished for agreeing to generous payouts in much rosier economic times. Mr Moore, who married his wife Kim in 1998, is a flamboyant entrepreneur who started out as a sunbed and perfume salesman.

In September 2003, the Moores moved to Spain for tax reasons but cracks began to appear in the marriage. The couple eventually divorced in Spain at the height of the property boom in 2005/06. But the division of their assets was only decided last year by the English courts, in an agreement widely reported to have left his ex-wife with £16m in property, the deferred sum of £4.7m, and ongoing maintenance payments.

Says Mr Moore: "Immediately after the court case, I filed an objection to set aside the lump sum payment, as it was clear I was left with almost no cash. I was also left with loans to real estate projects, only one of which I have been able to collect."

He made his fortune launching Inside Track, a company offering seminars on the property market. He also launched a sister company, Instant Access Properties, which helps investors enter the buy-to-let market. When the property market slumped these businesses went into administration. The case has cost both parties a total of £4m in legal and other fees and could end up being the most expensive divorce in history. A judge hearing an appeal in 2007 described the costs as "grotesque". From the original settlement Mrs Moore retained properties in Spain, Surrey and Essex and is being paid £4.7m over the next three years.

Mr Moore who lives in Switzerland for tax reasons, has some properties but he says that his wealth is tied up in land which has depreciated in value.

"The real problem is that most of these investments are cash consumptive. I estimate my current net worth, if I sold everything – which I couldn't without horrific losses – at £3m after fees. I also have tax issues. These could leave me bankrupt."

Mrs Moore declined to comment.

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