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'Genius' banker Randy Work loses $225 million divorce battle

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 11/04/2017 Jeremy Hodges

Divorce wedding ring on dictionary © Peter Dazeley/The Image Bank/Getty Images Divorce wedding ring on dictionary A former Lone Star Funds executive, who asked judges to consider the nature of “genius” in a bid to win a bigger share of a US$225 million (NZ$323 million) fortune than his ex-wife, lost his divorce appeal at a London court on Tuesday.

Randy Work failed to convince a three-judge panel that his “special contribution” during their marriage meant he was entitled to a bigger share than the typical British practice of awarding a 50-50 division of marital assets.

Work and Mandy Gray, both American, were married for 20 years when they split. A lower-court judge said in 2015 that the multimillion-dollar estate should be equally split because while Work may have worked hard, the fortune was the result of “being in the right place at the right time, or benefiting from a period of boom,” not his professional brilliance.

The appeal judges agreed saying the use "of the word genius is unhelpful," and that Work "failed to demonstrate that" the previous judge’s "decision was wrong."

U.K. appeal judges have only ruled on the issue of special contribution a handful of times in the last 15 years as they have tried to draw a line between success of a "wholly exceptional nature" and people who’ve become very wealthy through ordinary means. 

Work, who had asked for 61 percent of the assets, applied "groundbreaking methodologies" in the Japanese distressed debt market while running the fund’s office there, generating huge returns, according to the ruling. He was "undoubtedly, very successful" but he didn’t create Lone Star, the judges said, citing the 2015 ruling.

Lawyers for Work and Gray didn’t immediately respond to emails requesting comment.

Unequal split

London courts have gained a reputation as being a more sympathetic place to play out high-stakes divorces, as generally speaking judges order a 50-50 split of assets, giving equal weight to the work of a wealth creator and a home maker. However, when they do rule in favor of it the numbers involved can be eye catching.

WPP Plc Chief Executive Officer Martin Sorrell relied on it in his 2005 divorce, in which a judge ruled his contribution was exceptional and awarded his ex-wife 40 percent of their 75 million pounds ($93 million) of assets. 

And the next year a judge gave the ex-wife of Axis Capital Holdings Ltd.’s then CEO John Charman 36.5 percent of their 131 million-pound marital estate on the basis that her contribution didn’t match his “extraordinary talent and energy.” Charman lost a later appeal for a larger share.

In 2014, a judge decided that Jamie Cooper-Hohn, the ex-wife of the Children’s Investment Fund Management UK LLP founder Chris Hohn should get 36 percent of their $1.5 billion marital estate. She didn’t appeal.

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