Released court papers reveal that the Cambridge-educated advertising mogul, whose company owns Ogilvy & Mather and J Walter Thompson, has been ordered to pay nearly £30m to his former wife Sandra, from whom he split in 2003.
As well as their £3.2m Georgian townhouse, the former Lady Sorrell, who says she married him 33 years before "for keeps and for love" and wanted to "grow old with her husband", gets two underground parking spaces worth nearly £200,000.
There has been a string of judgments that recognise the role of women, even wives who do not work, in contributing to the financial success of their husbands.
The 24-page High Court judgment on the Sorrell divorce, obtained by The Independent on Sunday, shows their relationship deteriorated to such an extent that Sir Martin was banished to the basement of their Knightsbridge mansion when their marriage came to a bitter end.
Sir Martin's obsession with his career, described in the court papers as "a phenomenal success story", is cited as one reason for the marriage failure. Famed for his marathon working days, he turned a small company which made supermarket wire baskets into the world's second-largest advertising group.
The mogul is having a tough time with women. Last week, his worldwide creative director, Neil French, caused outrage by saying women did not make it to the top in advertising because they were "crap". French was forced to quit.
Sir Martin, once described as driven by a "classic Napoleon complex" because of his intense ambition, is blamed by his former wife for contributing to the breakdown of their marriage because of his obsession with work. In her submission to the court, she said he "marginalised" and "dehumanised" her, "discarded" her from his affections and took a mistress. The Honourable Mr Justice Bennett, who heard the case, said Lady Sorrell, 59, should be "justly proud" of running the home and bringing up their children, although he rejected her claims that Sir Martin was not a good father.
Lady Sorrell's barrister, Nicholas Mostyn QC, has represented women in several landmark divorce cases including that of Karen Parlour. Last year, she won a 37 per cent share of four years of her footballer husband Ray's income, estimated at £1.2m. The Parlour case granted women the right to a share of their former husbands' future earnings. In 2000, the House of Lords issued a groundbreaking ruling that there should be no automatic bias in divorce settlements in favour of the main earner, usually the husband. Although Lady Sorrell failed to convince the judge she should get half her husband's fortune, her payout could rise if her lawyers lodge an appeal.
Julian Lipson, a divorce expert and partner at Withers Worldwide, said many high earners were hesitating before marrying, and demand for pre-nuptial agreements had "rocketed". He added: "Men often feel they have been taken to the cleaners. Most people will be surprised that it is irrelevant who makes the money during the marriage, but that is, by and large, how it is."
What the settlement includes
£23.4m: lump sum for Lady Sorrell
£3.25: Georgian mansion in Knightsbridge, west London
£2m: bank deposits
£565,295: half of the Sorrells' combined pension
£183,516: two spaces in the underground car park at Harrods, Knightsbridge
£47,244: National Savings Certificates
£36,743: life insurance policies
£29,792: stocks, gilts and securities
£5,095: National Savings BondsReuse content