Vladimir Potanin, Russia’s second-richest man, is facing one of the world’s biggest divorce claims after Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.
His ex-wife, Natalia Potanina, is seeking 50% of the value of his stake in MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC, outlining the maximum amount at a London court hearing Tuesday. That amount could exceed $7 billion, given that Potanin owns around one-third of the shares in the metal producer.
Potanin is fighting the case after Potanina overturned a lower court that accused her of “divorce tourism.” Potanin is still waiting to hear whether the U.K. Supreme Court will consider an appeal, Judge Nicholas Francis said.
London’s divorce courts have been a popular destination for high-value legal fights, with judges typically prepared to order a more equal share of a couple’s assets. In the U.K., the largest publicly known payout in a divorce is currently 450 million pounds ($631 million) to the wife of billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov — though the two settled with a payment of less than one-third of that amount.
Potanina said that in addition to the Norilsk stock, she would be prepared to accept 50% of all dividends on the shares from 2014. Her former husband has collected some 487.3 billion rubles ($6.6 billion) in dividends since then and has a net worth of $29.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Potanina is also seeking half of the value of an expensive Russian property known as the Autumn House.
Potanina said she received around $40 million following Russian divorce proceedings while Potanin said she ended up with $84 million — a sum that by English standards is a “paltry award” given his wealth and the length of their 31-year-marriage, a judge said in a previous decision.
Frances Hughes, a lawyer for Potanina, declined to comment. A lawyer for Potanin didn’t immediately return emails seeking comment.
Another Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, was the subject of a high-profile divorce that unfolded over six jurisdictions and resulted in years of acrimony. In 2014, a Swiss judge awarded his ex-wife, Elena Rybolovleva, $4.5 billion, though a subsequent ruling slashed the amount to just over $600 million.
(By Jonathan Browning, with assistance from Tom Maloney and Alex Sazonov)