F1 boss hires lawyer in divorce battle for millions
Bernie Ecclestone could lose $2B in divorce
Bernie Ecclestone is planning legal action against his estranged wife to claw back hundreds of millions of pounds placed in off-shore trusts in her name, the Evening Standard can reveal.
Mr. Ecclestone, 78, is embroiled in Britain's costliest divorce from his wife Slavica, who is 28 years his junior. He has now hired the lawyer who secured Guy Ritchie a payout of about £45 million from Madonna.
Mr. Ecclestone has appointed Helen Ward, one of London's most expensive family solicitors, in a move which scotched suggestions the divorce was off.
The couple had spent this Christmas together in Belgrade in Serbia and been photographed in an embrace, prompting claims that Mr. Ecclestone and his former supermodel wife had patched up their differences.
But the Evening Standard can reveal that Lady Ward, the wife of a Court of Appeal judge, has been brought in to negotiate a settlement with Slavica over hundreds of millions of pounds put in her name.
Mr. Ecclestone, who is worth about £2.4 billion, received £1.9 billion from the sale of 75 per cent of his Formula One business, placing the proceeds of the sale in an off-shore account in Jersey in Slavica's name. The Standard has been told that Slavica, who was born in Croatia, enjoys non-domiciled tax status.
The 6'-0" Slavica (R) makes 5'-4" Bernie (L) look like a short runt
A source close to the legal proceedings told the Standard today: "Bernie may have to sue Slavica to get his money back. She will have to pay him the biggest settlement of all time. All the money in her name in the trust will have to go into the matrimonial pot. A case of this magnitude is crying out for careful negotiation. This is not the sort of case that should go to court."
Another source told the Standard the case could drag on for several months and as long as a year as the complex negotiations begin over dividing up assets. Much will depend on relations between the couple. He is said to still be deeply in love with her.
Mr. Ecclestone, who at 5ft 4in is 10 inches shorter than his wife, has been married to Slavica for 24 years. They have two grown-up daughters. She walked out of the marital home in Chelsea at the end of last year and then announced she was divorcing Mr. Ecclestone, part owner of Queens Park Rangers football club.
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