Friday 22 July 2011

Boris Berezovsky pays out £100m in UK's biggest divorce settlement

The Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and his ex-wife, Galina Besharova, have agreed to part company in Britain's largest ever divorce settlement. The court in London was not informed of the sum involved but it is understood that she received more than £100m from her ex-husband.

The couple, who both live in the UK, gave the reason for their split as his "unreasonable behaviour". The previous settlement record was the £48m paid by an insurance broker, John Charman, to his former wife, Beverley.

Besharova, 52, was represented by Deborah Levy, of WGS solicitors. The lawyer confirmed that the figure agreed was "the largest ever" in the UK but declined to reveal the precise amount.

"Parties have amicably resolved matters and are very keen to preserve their privacy," Levy said. Besharova and Berezovsky, 65, had previously obtained a divorce at an uncontested court hearing last July that lasted just 45 seconds.

She lives with their two teenage children in Kensington, west London, in a penthouse overlooking Hyde Park. He occupies the 172-acre Wentworth Park estate in Surrey which he shares with his partner of the past 15 years, Yelena Gorbunova, and their two children. Friday's proceedings, before Mrs Justice Eleanor King, were called to agree the terms of the settlement. There had been no pre-nuptial agreement.

Berezovsky and Besharova met in 1981 when he was a professor of mathematics in Moscow earning £60 a month. He later set himself up in business as a car dealer, founding the first Mercedes dealership in the old Soviet Union. He became one of the original Russian oligarchs as President Boris Yeltsin sold off state assets to favoured supporters for a fraction of their value.

Berezovsky married Besharova in 1991 after divorcing his first wife, Nina. Besharova was said to have spent only two years of the 18-year marriage with the exiled businessman, whose fortune was built up mainly after they had separated.

Although Berezovsky played a key role in ensuring Vladimir Putin's victory in the 2000 Russian presidential election, the two men fell out as Putin successfully wrested control of the country back from the so-called oligarchy, the small group of tycoons who had come to dominate the country's economy.

A few months after the election, Berezovsky fled Russia, and applied successfully for asylum in the UK after Alexander Litvinenko, an officer with the KGB's successor, the FSB, came forward to say he had been ordered to murder the tycoon.