California has its fair share of billionaires. By Forbes' latest count the state ranks at the top in the U.S. with 111, thanks in large part to the technology sector. But it's the story of a Russian billionaire and what is being called the largest potential divorce settlement in history that attracts our attention this week.
According to the Associated Press, oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev has been ordered by a court in Switzerland to pay his ex-wife more than $4.5 billion. That's said to be half the value of the fortune that the potash fertilizer tycoon accumulated since the couple's marriage in 1987.
That's not the end of the story, however.
According to Rybolovlev's attorney, this is only the first determination of the case in the Swiss system. There are two levels of appeal and the attorney indicates that the $4.5 billion award will wind up being reduced.
One reason that apparent confidence may exist seems to do with the fact that most of the couple's estimated worth is being held in a Cyprus-based trust that was created in 2005. Divorce proceedings weren't initiated by the ex-wife until 2008.
Still, both sides are claiming victory. While Rybolovlev's attorney suggests the date of the trust creation will ultimately mean a reduction in the final settlement amount, lawyers for the ex-wife say their read is that the court's decision means the trust structure is in question.
We can only wait and see how things play out. In the meantime, the elements of this case provide some perspective about how challenging property division can become in high-asset divorces and why it's so important to be working with an attorney who understands the inherent complexities.
Source: The Big Story, "Russian oligarch faces $4.5 billion Swiss divorce," John Heilprin, May 19, 2014
Source: Forbes, "California Leads All States (And All But 2 Countries) With 111 Billionaires," Dan Alexander, May 7, 2014