Ryan Giggs divorce: ex-footballer to argue his genius before high court

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Former Manchester United star will follow precedent set by bin-liner entrepreneur to argue for more than half of 40m fortune

Ryan Giggs must follow in the footsteps of a bin-liner entrepreneur and convince a divorce hearing of something that Manchester United devotees take for awarded: that he is a genius.

Giggs will argue in the high court that he should be awarded more than half of the 40 m fate he shares with his wife because of his special contribution to their marital millions. If the 43 -year-olds legal team can convince a judge that this contribution possesses the spark of genius then he had been able to predominate, under a precedent set by the man who earned his fortune from introducing black plastic bin liners to the UK.

Giggss lawyers this week told the high court that they will call witnesses to prove that he is a genius and contributed far more to his 10 -year marriage than his spouse Stacey Cooke. They argued this should trump statute that states homebuilding and companionship are of equal significance to breadwinning.

However, one legal expert warned that the strategy is high-risk. No magistrate likes the idea of people expending huge amounts to legally brag about their own self-imagined genius, said David Ruck, a partner and divorce specialist at statute firm Gordon Dadd. The courtrooms are very reluctant to describe what a special contribution is, adding that it has only been acknowledged in a handful of cases where the sums are massive.

Randy
Randy Work, who this week lost his claim to more than half of a 140 m fate. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/ PA

If Giggs succeeds, he will be one of merely a handful of men to have successfully convinced an English court that his fiscal contribution to wedding should overrule the yardstick of equality which entails the lesser-earning spouse is entitled to half of the assets in a divorce.

In the past fortnight, two other multimillionaire spouses American banker Randy Work and Laura Ashley chairman Khoo Kay Peng have failed to have their genius recognised by the courts. Work, 49, was forced to pay 72 m to his ex-wife, while 78 -year-old Khoo was required to settle for 64 m.

The precedent that Giggs is relying on was set in 2001 when the court of appeal magistrates ruled that Michael Cowan could keep 62% of the 12 m bin liner fate he shared with his wife because its own contribution, in terms of entrepreneurial panache, inventiveness and hard work, was truly exceptional.

Since that ruling, many wealthy humankinds have also tried to claim they are geniuses and should also be able accumulate more than half of their familys finances, but few have succeeded in persuading judges that they are as exceptional as Cowan.

Sir Martin Sorrell of advertise firm WPP was awarded 60% of the 75 m joint assets in his 2005 divorce from Sandra, his wife of 33 times. Mr Justice Bennett ruled that Sorrell was regarded within his realm and the wider business community as one of the most exceptional and most talented industrialists. Bennett said the true interpretation for this extraordinary success narrative is that the husband does possess the spark or army or seed of genius. And with that the so-called genius clause was born.

The next year, insurance tycoon John Charman was awarded 63.5% of the 131 m marital fate because the wealth generated is of extraordinary proportions from extraordinary flair and energy. In 2014, Jamie Cooper-Hohn, ex-wife of Chris Hohn, the billionaire founder of hedge fund The Childrens Investment Fund Management, was awarded just 36% of their $1.5 bn fortune.

But far more spouses have tried and failed to invoked the genius clause. This week, American private equity tycoon Work failed to convince the court of appeal to recognise his genius and grant him more than half of a 140 m fate, which included a 30 m mansion in Kensington, west London, complete with swimming pool and fitness centre, and an 18 m ski lodge in Aspen, Colorado.

The court of appeal agreed with an earlier ruling that it would be unjustifiably gender-discriminatory to make an unequal award. This was a marriage of two strong and equal partners over 20 years.

Ruling on their divorce in 2015, Mr Justice Holman told the businessman that his wealth contribution was not wholly exceptional and rejected his claim to be a fiscal genius. I personally find that a difficult, and perhaps unhelpful, term given this context, Holman said. To my brain, the word genius tends to be overused and is properly reserved for Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Einstein and others like them.

In Cowans instance, his legal team did not stint on claiming the word genius applied to their patron. Speaking at a court of appeal hearing in 2001, Cowans lawyer compared his patron to a popular musician who achieves worldwide success, or a novelist with international bestsellers. Michael Pointer QC added: These are people who have the spark of genius, the Midas touch, and Mr Cowan falls into that category. He was the man who introduced bin liners to this country. He realised the potential.

Ruck said the more periods the clause is defeated the harder it will become to convince judges that anyone is so much of a genius that they should be granted more than half the assets. There will be more, even though it is does require fairly litigious people, with fund to pay the lawyers, he said. But, then again, if you have 175 m, it may not matter a huge amount.

London is widely regarded as the divorce capital of “the worlds” because of English statutes regard for homebuilding as of equal value to fiscal earnings. But it has only been so since 2000, when a landmark divorce instance was taken to the House of Lords. Pamela White complained that she had originally been granted just 800,000 of the 4.6 m farming fate she had induced with her husband Martin White. The Nobleman said to household lawyers, seem youve been getting this wrong, you should be starting at a 50/50 separate and then looking to see if there is any good reason to deviating from equality, said Jo Edwards, a partner and head of household statute at London statute firm Forsters.

Edwards said that before White v White, ex-wives of wealthy humankinds could not hope for anything approaching parity. Settlements were based on so-called Duxbury tables, which calculate a wife reasonable needs for the rest of their own lives.

Lawyers handbook At a Glance shows that in Big Money Awards before White v White, wives were granted as little as 2.5% of the marital fate. Katina Dart, wife of burger-box billionaire Robert Dart, was, in 1996, awarded just 10 m of the couples 400 m fortune after 15 years of wedding. Lady Caroline Conran was granted 12.3% of the 85.7 m assets in her 1997 divorce from designer Sir Terence Conran.

Edwards said she expected the super-rich to continue trying to play the genius card despite Works failure, as the financial benefits of succeeding can be so great. But Giggs is going to find it hard running, she said. And full and frank revealing: Im a massive Manchester United fan, so I do think he is a genius

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