Super-rich divorcees cry all the way to the bank

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The Independent Online
Nick Faldo and Earl Spencer are just two people likely to be casting anxious eyes at the Conran divorce row which exploded so spectacularly last week.

Like Sir Terence Conran they both stand to pay out seven-figure sums to their estranged wives in forthcoming divorce settlements. While the Conran case made headlines for Sir Terence's intemperate reaction to the judge awarding his ex-wife pounds 10.5m it only served to highlight the lawyers' rule of thumb in such cases: the wife can expect 10 per cent of the husband's wealth.

It is no coincidence that Caroline Conran received pounds 10.5m - Sir Terence's fortune, derived from founding Habitat and opening restaurants, is estimated at pounds 105m.

On this basis, Gill Faldo, second wife of the golf star, can expect to pick up pounds 10m - some 10 per cent of his estimated worth of pounds 100m.

Earl Spencer, the Princess of Wales's brother, faces greater problems since his wealth is in land and is not liquid. His fortune is estimated at pounds 80m, according to Dr Philip Beresford, a researcher studying private wealth, so Victoria Spencer could expect pounds 8m.

As another rule of high-profile divorces, said Dr Beresford, the older the money, the greater the discretion. Earl Spencer's settlement may therefore never be revealed.

When the Duke of Roxburghe was divorced by his first wife, Lady Jane Grosvenor (the Duke of Westminster's sister) in 1990, no financial details emerged. She moved into a pounds 1m house near Floors castle, the ancestral seat, but later left the area.

Similarly, the agreement between Camilla Parker Bowles, Prince Charles's close friend, and Andrew, her ex-husband, has never been formally confirmed - despite strenuous media efforts. Camilla, subject of her first TV documentary tonight, is thought to have received the pounds 850,000 family home in Wiltshire, close to the Prince at Highgrove.

Another aristocratic deal to remain under wraps is that between Viscount Chelsea and his second wife, Jenny. The Viscount is heir to Earl Cadogan, one of the richest men in the country with a pounds 600m fortune mostly centred on property in the Chelsea area of London. When they parted in 1994, Jenny claimed she received only pounds 20,000 a year plus a two-bedroomed house. He said the settlement was much more generous, without offering any details.

The Conran and possible Faldo and Spencer payoffs pale alongside the biggest known to have been made in Britain. Jill Collins, the second wife of singer Phil Collins, received pounds 10m in cash, a pounds 6m Beverly Hills home and a pounds 1m mansion in Surrey when they divorced. Her total of pounds 17m squares with Diana's settlement with Prince Charles.

Even these, however, trail behind Donatella Flick, who received pounds 32m from Muck Flick, the Mercedes heir, who lives in London. Muck's brother and fellow heir, Mick, also had to make a huge payment when he divorced his then wife, Maya. Among Maya's demands: pounds 4,000 a year to feed and look after the labrador and pounds 50,000 for clothes.