Tue, Feb 12, 2008 - Page 6 News List

McCartney divorce payout may break £48 million record

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Sir Paul McCartney and his estranged wife, Heather Mills, were yesterday to embark on the latest stage of their divorce proceedings.

Having apparently failed to agree a settlement over recent months, the pair enter the Royal Courts of Justice in London for a week-long battle over the slice of the former Beatle's fortune due to Mills and their daughter Beatrice.

Despite reports on Saturday that there had been a last-minute deal worth £55 million (US$107 million) by the time their daughter is 18, the prospect of an 11th-hour agreement shortening the proceedings was not forthcoming on Sunday night. If yesterday's trial goes ahead, Justice Bennett, known as a no-nonsense type, must decide after days of argument in private session what Mills is entitled to. He is likely to delay giving his judgment.

Some have put McCartney's fortune at £835 million, but informed legal sources estimate it at nearer £200 million. It has also been pointed out that the short, four-year length of their marriage is not necessarily an indicator that Mills and their daughter will not get a large chunk of it.

The 65-year-old musician has assembled an expensive legal team, including Nicholas Mostyn, a veteran of notable divorce cases. Mills, 40, is representing herself after a high-profile falling out with her legal representatives at Mishcon de Reya.

The size of the final settlement may never be known, unless either party chooses to go to the court of appeal, whose hearings take place in public. "Friends" of either side could, however, reveal details of the case to the media. Either way, the payout could break the record in a British divorce court. The dispute between the two has been covered extensively over the last year.

"They had a very, very expensive lifestyle. Even though he had made the money beforehand, all the case law says there should not be a vast difference in lifestyle between the parents. That means she is entitled to a house in London, a house in the country and a house in the sun," according to a lawyer associated with divorce cases.

The costs of Mills caring for their daughter, staff and security would also be high, given the girl's age.

"This is a very, very big case. No one knows what the right approach is," the lawyer said.

The highest divorce payout awarded by a British court was the £48 million made to Beverley Charman after her 28-year marriage to insurance magnate John Charman ended. That sum came from the couple's total assets of £131 million. But lawyers specializing in big-money payouts say agreements as high as £100 million have been reached privately.

On his Web site last month, McCartney said most of what had been written about him was "completely inaccurate."

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