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The Telegraph

Divorces don’t get messier than among the super-rich

Lockdown has not been easy for billionaires, even Bill Gates. News that the fourth richest couple in the world – worth some $125 billion – are heading for a divorce must have been a champagne-popping moment for the US legal community; the more money at stake, the messier the split. The pair have hauled in top brass to manage proceedings: on Melinda’s side are Robert Cohen and Sherri Anderson – who have a host of A-list clients under their respective belts, including Ivana Trump, Uma Thurman and Jeff Bezos. Bill is leaning on Robert Olsen and Ted Billbe – who made MacKenzie Scott the world’s fourth-richest woman after her marriage to Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, ended two years ago. The Gateses calling time on their vows after 27 years has kickstarted what is believed to become the most expensive divorce in history. One friend sought to get her own back on her hedgefunder husband by calling every top divorce lawyer in the UK – spending her hedgefunder husband’s money as she went – so there was no one left to represent him. Another kept “lawyering” until the desperate husband caved into her demands, which included ownership of an Italian beach front property he’d always claimed to hate. A media executive friend who divorced after 30 years of marriage explains: “There are three buckets when it comes to divorce: anger, blame and sadness. Lawyers will do everything they can to keep it in anger and blame.” The super-rich have an army of lawyers and tax accountants at their disposal; the more the couple fight, the richer they get. “It’s not level playing fields in this sector,” says Charlotte Ransom, CEO of Netwealth, who advises predominantly high net worth women. “Wealth can be tied up in trusts and offshore companies. The business can be part of a partnership.” The super-rich didn’t get that way without understanding how money works, even if the bulk of that job was handed over to financial advisers. Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are married to educated, intelligent women. “[But] I have clients who haven’t worked out that if the husband can afford a £10 million home in central London, he probably has a lot more,” Ransom says. Emotions, too, can land you a bad deal: “Women often have a particular attachment to the home because of the stability they believe it affords their children.” Clever husbands pretend to be generous by offering it up, meanwhile nabbing the Gstaad ski chalet and New York penthouse.