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The five most expensive divorces of all time

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As Bill and Melinda Gates ponder how to divide around $130 billion in assets, we take a look at the five most expensive divorces so far.

1. Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott divorce 2019 - $38 billion

When the founder of Amazon and wife MacKenzie Scott divorced in 2019, they went through a communal property divorce. This treats property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage as their own separate property, not to be shared on divorce. This left MacKenzie Scott with one-quarter of their Amazon shares, making her the fourth wealthiest woman in the world.

2. Alec Wildenstein and Jocelyn Wildenstein divorce 1999 - $3.8 billion

Second is the divorce of the Wildensteins. Alec was a French-American businessman and art dealer whose marriage to wife Jocelyn lasted 21 years. In 2001 he inherited half of his father’s estate, including what was believed to be the world’s largest collection of major works of art. The divorce was particularly contentious and the judge stipulated when awarding Mrs Wildenstein her settlement that she should not use any of the money for further cosmetic surgeries. She lived a lavish lifestyle and in 2018 filed for bankruptcy.

3. Rupert Murdoch and Anna Murdoch Mann divorce 2013 – reputed $1.7 billion

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s marital assets were split with his wife of over thirty years in accordance with a prenuptial agreement. They separated in 1999 and finalised their divorce in 2013, a few days before his third marriage, which also failed to last.

4. Bernie Ecclestone and Slavica Ecclestone divorce 2009 – estimated $1.2 billion

In the late 1990s, Bernie Ecclestone transferred his assets to his second wife Slavica when he was suffering from a serious heart condition. The reason behind this was that if anything happened to him, his estate would not be required to pay UK Inheritance Tax at 40% for much of their fortune before passing to his daughters.

This meant that following his divorce, Slavica pays Bertie $100 million per year from her trust fund.

5. Steve Wynn and Elaine Wynn divorce 2010 – estimated $1 billion

Las Vegas casino tycoon Steve Wynn split their holding in Wynn Resorts Ltd, a reflection of Elaine’s heavy involvement in the business.

Since their 2010 settlement however, the couple has told a court that they no longer consider the agreement to be valid and an ugly legal battle is in progress, including allegations against Steve of reckless spending as well as the covering up of a sexual assault allegation with a secret multi-million-dollar payment. Casino regulators have instigated investigations into his conduct, which could potentially end in him being found unfit to be the major shareholder in a casino company, meaning he could be forced to sell some of his holding. Steve Wynn denies assaulting anyone. 

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This article is not a definitive statement of the law. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. It is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no liability or responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.