Property tycoon in £400m divorce battle declared bankrupt

Woman who claimed husband had hidden his fortune now could end up with nothing
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The Independent Online

A tycoon fixer who is fighting a bitter divorce case from his estranged wife over claims that he has hidden his £400m fortune has been declared bankrupt by the taxman.

Scot Young, 47, who counts Topshop owner Sir Philip Green among his friends, was told last year that he faced imprisonment unless he disclosed details of his financial affairs and was ordered to pay £27,000 a month to his wife, Michelle, to cover costs including the rent on her mansion in Regent's Park in London and their two daughters' private school fees.

At a High Court hearing yesterday it emerged that Mr Young, who once led a jet-setting life commuting between his Surrey estate and a yacht in Monaco but claimed to have fallen deep into debt shortly after his marriage ended, has failed to make any of the maintenance payments and been made bankrupt by HM Revenue and Customs over unpaid taxes of £2m.

The court heard that Mrs Young, 45, is now down to her last £13,000 of savings and faces eviction from her home after having to finance her living costs and legal fees from her own resources. She claims she has evidence that her husband is worth £400m and has concealed the true extent of his wealth.

The one-time property magnate, who built up a circle of monied friends and contacts through his property dealings, represented himself in court. He told the judge, Mrs Justice Black, that any order against him to pay money was now "academic" because of his bankruptcy.

Speaking outside the hearing in London's High Court, Mr Young, whose lawyers last year said he had suffered a mental illness and has debts of £27m, insisted that he would be co-operating fully with bankruptcy investigators. He said: "I have battled for some years and hopefully this will bring closure. I have every intention of looking after the children and my wife as best as I possibly can. She must allow me to get back into business and stop the media circus surrounding the case which is damaging to my children."

The entrepreneur has suffered a drastic reversal in his lifestyle since his success in the real estate business allowed him to fund a £19m house in Egham, Surrey, along with a £4.5m mansion in Miami as well as a portfolio of properties in Mayfair and Knightsbridge worth £32m.

After marrying his wife in 1985, Mr Young joined a globe-trotting elite, attending A-list Hollywood parties and rubbing shoulders with senior statesmen including American president Bill Clinton. The exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky is also an acquaintance. Mr Young, a fixer for Russian oligarchs and British billionaires, showered gifts on his spouse, including a Range Rover filled with haute couture dresses by her favourite designer and £1m of Graff diamond jewellery bought for her 40th birthday.

But after the marriage broke down in 2006, Mrs Young claims her husband's fortune evaporated over a matter of months and he refused to give a full account of his assets for three years afterwards. He has borrowed an average of £400,000 a year from benefactors since 2006 to fund his legal and living costs, including the £120,000-a-year rent on his wife's home.

In a statement before yesterday's hearing, Mrs Young, whose legal fees for the case have reached £660,000, said: "While 'the fixer' to Russian oligarchs and British billionaires claims to be 'penniless', he still has the means to retain some of Britain's finest legal representation. I'm doing this to make sure that my daughter and I don't have to worry for the future."

The court heard that Mrs Young, who is understood to be claiming half of her husband's putative £400m fortune, was £23,000 in debt with school fees for her teenage daughters, Scarlet and Sasha, who were finding it difficult to cope with exams and fears of being made homeless. A full divorce trial is scheduled to take place next month but Mrs Justice Black said that hearing was now threatened because of Mr Young's failure to make any of the scheduled maintenance payments.

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