A London high court judge has ordered Chris Hohn, founder of one of Britain’s largest and most successful hedge funds, to pay his former wife $531 million to settle their messy public divorce, according to statements made in court on Thursday.
The figure, which represents one of the largest divorce awards known in Britain, demonstrates the immense wealth Hohn has accumulated at the helm of the Children’s Investment Fund, known as TCI, the approximately $12 billion hedge fund he founded in 2004.
Much of that wealth has gone into the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, created by the couple, which now has $4.6 billion and is one of Britain’s largest charities. Jamie Cooper-Hohn, his former wife, served as its chief executive until 2012.
The settlement figure underscores London’s reputation as the divorce capital of the world for the ultrawealthy. Unlike some other countries that set timetables and limit awards, a set of guiding principles here is more open to judicial interpretation, lawyers say. “Not only do you have the opportunity to get more money, but you can get it for longer,” said Julian Bremner, a partner with the law firm Rayden Solicitors.
The couple’s ties to the foundation further complicated an already complex divorce after a 17-year marriage.
Cooper-Hohn’s lawyer argued during the trial that she was entitled to 50% of their assets, estimated at one point to be $1.3 billion.
Hohn countered that she should get 25% of a smaller figure, because of the “special contribution” he made to the creation of the wealth.
It is not clear what proportion she received, because the judge did not disclose her order. It will be released in December, and British divorce lawyers are anxiously waiting to see the proportion awarded and the judge’s reasoning for her ruling.
On Thursday, the two appeared in court to hash out a number of contentious issues, including whether he paid her rent on time (his lawyers say yes; her lawyers say no); why a $10-million payment to her had not been made (his lawyers said it was ready; her lawyers said they had been told he did not have the onshore resources); and the fallout from bribery accusations Hohn made against her related to the foundation, Cooper-Hohn’s lawyers said in court.
Both Hohn and Cooper-Hohn are trustees of the foundation. The divorce proceedings have complicated the operations of the foundation, said one person briefed on the situation. As part of the negotiations, Cooper-Hohn offered to lower her settlement amount in exchange for his supporting a proposal for a division of the foundation, whose operations had been adversely affected by their inability to work together, according to the person briefed on the situation. He asserted to the trustees that it was a bribe and that her lawyers knew about it.
The trustees hired a pair of expensive and prominent lawyers to investigate. They found no substance to the bribery claim, the person said.
Hohn could not be reached for comment.
Ms. Cooper-Hohn will get $493.3 million in cash, with the remainder coming from a pension plan. She is to be paid $10 million immediately and the rest after the two sides work out an indemnity agreement.