Russian billionaire ends UK's largest divorce row with $252m deal

Ms Tatiana Akhmedova outside the High Court in London last December. A spokesman for her former husband said on Friday that she has accepted a cash and art settlement that is about one-third of a 2016 court award. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Ms Tatiana Akhmedova outside the High Court in London last December. A spokesman for her former husband said on Friday that she has accepted a cash and art settlement that is about one-third of a 2016 court award. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov has agreed to pay his former wife around £135 million (S$252 million), ending the largest financial dispute seen in Britain's divorce courts.

Ms Tatiana Akhmedova has accepted a cash and art settlement that is about one-third of a 2016 court award, a spokesman for Mr Akhmedov said on Friday.

The agreement brings to a close the bitter and long-running legal fight and means that the oligarch will retain his 115m, nine-deck luxury superyacht Luna.

The fight for assets has spanned at least nine jurisdictions since a London judge awarded Ms Akhmedova some £450 million - amounting to 41 per cent of the former spouse's assets - in 2016, raising questions about the ability of English courts to enforce judgments.

She has been funded by litigation finance group Burford Capital, which said it will receive US$103 million (S$139 million).

Azerbaijan-born Mr Akhmedov made much of his money from the sale of his stake in a Russian gas producer in November 2012 for US$1.4 billion. But the billionaire refused to make any divorce payments, calling the 2016 divorce order illegitimate, and moved to Russia.

"I will burn this moneys rather then will give her," he said in a WhatsApp message to his son in March that year.

The couple met in 1989, marrying four years later and moving to London, where Ms Akhmedova has lived with their two children ever since. The marriage formally ended in late 2014.

The case attracted huge attention over the pursuit of the Luna yacht - the single largest asset owned by Mr Akhmedov - which has been holed up in a Dubai port since 2018.

With the settlement, the vessel, one of only a handful of the world's luxury "explorer yachts" with steel hulls designed for breaking through ice floes, will be free to sail again.

The settlement comes after previous negotiation attempts collapsed. The two had sought to end the dispute earlier in the year after Ms Akhmedova won a case against her son Temur who was said to have helped his father hide his assets.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 18, 2021, with the headline 'Russian billionaire ends UK's largest divorce row with $252m deal'. Subscribe