Tycoon's ex-wife wins record £48m divorce settlement

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The Independent Online

The former wife of an insurance magnate has been awarded a £48m divorce settlement, the largest of its kind in British legal history. The High Court granted the award to Beverley Charman, who was married to John Charman, the head of Bermuda-based Dragon Trust. He had offered £20m to the mother of his two children.

In a ruling made public yesterday, Mr Justice Coleridge, said: "The wife's case is the now-familiar one. She says this was a long marriage during which all the wealth was generated from scratch. She played her full part as wife and mother, of two now-adult sons.

"Fairness dictates that the fortune generated during their marriage, apart from the sum set aside in trust for the children, should be split 50-50. She is prepared to accept a 45/55 per cent split."

Mrs Charman's windfall - believed to be the highest awarded to a wife in the English divorce courts on a contested basis - was a total sum of £48m, which includes £8m of assets already in her name including the family home in Kent, valued at £2.75m. The judge also ordered Mr Charman to pay Mrs Charman a lump sum of £40m. In a statement issued by Mr Charman and his solicitors, he said he believed the award was "unfair and unreasonable".

He added: "This judgment is poor and blatantly discriminatory. The size of the award is grotesque and unfair. By any reasonable standards, this is an extraordinary decision. I will appeal this decision. I made a fair and open offer to my wife of £20m, which would be impossible for any reasonable person to spend in their lifetime."

The couple, both 53, were married in 1976 and lived in Sevenoaks, Kent, with their children. They met at school as teenagers and became engaged in 1973 and separated in November 2003.

During their 29-year marriage, Mr Charman built up considerable wealth in the insurance market in the City of London. In 1987, he set up the Dragon Trust, now based in Bermuda where he lives, which has assets of £68m.

Mr Charman had contended that, whatever the size of the matrimonial assets, his wife should be awarded substantially less than an equal share by virtue of his "unique and exceptional contribution to their creation and his importance in the global insurance market", said the statement.

He said the assets of the Dragon Trust should be left out of account because they were deposited in a dynastic trust for the long-term benefit of the members of his family and he does not have control of those assets.

Mr Charman said: "The judge has ridden roughshod over a decision, made nearly 20 years ago during the marriage, to place assets in trust for future generations.

"He has wrongly concluded that I have full access to those assets which does not reflect the reality of the situation. He has taken them fully into account when awarding this unjust settlement."

The judge said: "Both wife and husband were careful witnesses. She is a quiet, even reticent woman, but steady and determined. The husband is a dynamic, energetic, self-made entrepreneur. Both are utterly different in their personality and approach to the priorities of life.

"Neither approach can be said to be right or wrong, good or bad. Both are equally valid, but their very difference created tension and conflict within this long marriage which, unresolved and without compromise on both sides, has eventually led to its destruction."