10 Most Expensive Divorces in History

Marriage is supposed to be a perfect union; a partnership of two like-minded people who together become more than the sum of their parts, falling in love forever. Alas, this utopian ideal is far from reality for many people. Indeed, statistics show that the rate of divorce in America for a first marriage is 41%, for a second marriage it is 60% and for a third it rises to as high as 73%.

Comedian and actor Robin Williams once said the word divorce was derived “from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man’s genitals through his wallet.” One of the bitterest areas of divorce can be the separation of the couple’s property and wealth, and things can get even more complicated when divorce settlements reach into the millions or even billions of dollars. Here is a list of the top 10 most expensive divorces in modern history, including some jaw-dropping amounts.

Honorable mention must go to Tiger Woods’ much publicized split from Elin Nordegren; however, sources disagree about the world’s first billionaire sportsman’s settlement amount, with numbers ranging from $100 million to a staggering $750 million. Whatever it turns out to be it’ll be sure to be eligible for this list soon enough.

10) Harrison Ford and Melissa Mathison Ford

E.T. Screenwriter Melissa Mathison Ford and her Hollywood actor husband Harrison Ford filed for a separation in August 2001 after some 18 years of marriage. The couple, who had met on the set of the critically acclaimed 1979 Stanley Kubrick film Apocalypse Now, cited irreconcilable differences and had already been living apart for a year. The couple did not have a prenuptial agreement and Mathison received the approximate sum of $85 million, including shares of royalties from movies that Harrison had made during their marriage.

9) Steven Spielberg and Amy Irving

In 1989 another high-profile Hollywood divorce made headlines in the tabloid newspapers. Director and producer Steven Spielberg and his wife Amy Irving split in what was at the time the third most expensive celebrity settlement in history.

Despite the couple having prepared a prenuptial agreement on a cocktail napkin, Irving received a $100 million settlement (reportedly half of Spielberg’s then fortune) after their judge discounted the prenuptial agreement. Spielberg is now worth approximately $3 billion.

8 ) Neil Diamond and Marcia Murphey

Marcia Murphey was awarded a substantial settlement after her divorce from the American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond in 1995. The pair had enjoyed 26 years of marriage and had two sons together. It seemed that the split was amicable, though, as the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame inductee Diamond said of Murphey: “She is the most wonderful woman, who stood by me through rough times, so she deserves every penny of it.” The actual numbers were never released to the public, but Diamond later revealed in an interview that his ex-wife had received $150 million from the divorce.

7) Michael and Juanita Jordan

Retired Basketball star Michael Jordan’s divorce from Juanita Jordan is the most expensive ‘celebrity’ divorce to date. Juanita’s final severance package came to a whopping $168m and included the couple’s Chicago estate and shared custody of their three children, Jeffrey, Marcus and Jasmine. The couple’s lawyers said that the split to their long-troubled union was mutual and amicable. Ironically, their last marriage-ending argument was rumored to have been about money.

6) John ‘Jack’ Welch and Jane Beasley

Jack Welch, Chairman of General Electric from 1981 to 2001, was stung for $180 million of his estimated gross worth of around $720 million in 2003 after his second wife Jane Beasley divorced him and ended a 13-year marriage. Beasley, a former mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer, had insisted that their pre-nuptial agreement should expire after the first 10 years, something that helped her to receive such a considerable payout. The man who 1984’s Fortune magazine named the “toughest boss in America” and “Manager of the 20th Century” enjoyed his most profitable years while married to Beasley, another contributing factor to Beasley’s high settlement.

5) Roman and Irina Abramovich

In 2007, the billionaire Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich reached an out-of-court settlement with his ex-wife Irina that has been estimated at $300 million. The split came after it was revealed that Abramovich was having ‘relations’ with former model Daria ‘Dasha’ Zhukova. Irina issued him with an ultimatum, forcing him to choose between her and Daria. When the fourth richest man in Russia chose Daria, divorce proceedings began in earnest.

Irina, a former Aeroflot flight attendant, is thought to have walked away with a variety of properties, a private plane, a yacht and of course a hefty amount of cash. An original sum of $7 billion was proposed by her legal team, but it was negotiated down by Roman’s advisors. The estimated sum of $300 million could be much higher, though, perhaps even reaching into the billions, but Russia’s secretive legal system means that the exact sums may never be known.

4) Craig and Wendy McCaw

When cell phone entrepreneur Craig McCaw and Wendy, his wife of 22 years, parted ways in 1995, both sides hired business attorneys, divorce experts, accountants and courtroom tacticians to oversee their own end of the divorce proceedings. It was said that a minor industry was built up around the couple’s split. It was also said that the divorce was “brutal” and “stripped the media-shy couple of their privacy.” In the end, Wendy received a substantial $460 million payout thanks in part to the fact that there was no pre-nuptial agreement to limit it. After the funds were transferred, Wendy briefly made it onto the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans.

3) Adnan and Soraya Khashoggi

Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi was considered to be one of the world’s richest men during the 1980s. He made his fortune as an international arms dealer before switching to oil, banking, hotels and properties all over the world. Married to Soraya (a 20-year-old English girl named Sandra Daly at the time of their wedding) since 1961, Adnan and his wife separated in 1974 after Soraya had an affair with one of Adnan’s close friends. The divorce details were leaked to such an extent that the affair became a huge embarrassment to the Khashoggi family. It was only in 1982 that Soraya’s alimony payments of up to $874 million were finalized.

2) Bernie and Slavica Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone’s split from his second wife Slavica was expected to be the most expensive in history – perhaps even reaching a sum as high as $4 billion. Ecclestone was married to the former Armani model for 24 years. Slavica, 51 at the time of the divorce, was the Formula 1 racing boss’s second wife. She stood almost a foot taller than her diminutive ex-husband and is 28 years his junior. Ecclestone’s workaholic lifestyle could have been one of the contributing factors to the decline of their partnership. The divorce was granted on 11 March 2009, with the final figure believed to be around the $1 billion mark.

1) Rupert Murdoch and Anna Murdoch Mann

Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s 32-year marriage to Anna Torv came to an end in 1999 when Torv, with whom he has three children, received a hefty $1.8 billion: $110 million of it in cash and the rest in assets. Torv said: “I don’t want to get too personal about this… but [Rupert] was extremely hard, ruthless and determined that he was going to go through with this, no matter what I wanted or what I was trying to do to save the marriage. He had no interest in that whatsoever.” She added: “I began to think the Rupert Murdoch that I loved died a long time ago. Perhaps I was in love with the idea of still being in love with him. But the Rupert I fell in love with could not have behaved this way.” Just over two weeks later, Murdoch married Chinese-born Wendi Deng who is 37 years his junior.