Court refuses to let "genius" banker keep most of $225m fortune in divorce, after judges agree he was just in the right place at the right time

 
Hayley Kirton
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The court did not find favour with Work's argument that he had made a "special contribution" (Source: Getty)

A court today dismissed the appeal of a former Lone Star exec after he failed to convince judges he was entitled to a greater chunk of a $225m (£180.2m) fortune than his ex-wife because of "genius".

Randy Work was initially told to pay his estranged wife Mandy Gray £72m in March 2015. He had been offering £5m in the divorce proceedings, arguing that not only was the majority of the money protected by a post-nuptial agreement originally signed in Texas but his "special contribution" to the wealth and the marriage meant he should keep a larger chunk.

However, the lower court dismissed this argument, finding his wife had also made a special sacrifice in raising their family. Work took his case to the Court of Appeal.

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Now, Bloomberg has reported the Court of Appeal has found Work "failed to demonstrate that" the previous judge's "decision was wrong". It was previously decided Work's argument of a special contribution should be dismissed, on the grounds his fortune was linked to "being in the right place at the right time, or benefiting from a period of boom", rather than pure professional prowess.

The higher court added the use of the word "genius" in Work's argument was "unhelpful".

"This case shows that the bar has been set so high as to perhaps be insurmountable in terms of the special contribution 'genius' argument," said Joanna Farrands, partner at Barlow Robbins. "It is hard to imagine any cases that would succeed on arguments that one spouse would receive a higher proportion of family wealth because of a genius quality."

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British courts tend to split martial assets equally between divorcing couples, but "special contribution" arguments have worked in high-profile cases in the past. Back in 2005, advertising tycoon Sir Martin Sorrell managed to keep hold of around 60 per cent of the martial assets when divorcing his wife of over 30 years.

Hedge fund titan Sir Chris Hohn was ordered to pay his estranged wife, Jamie Cooper-Hohn, £337m in 2014. However, this eye-watering amount represented just 36 per cent of the couple's assets.

Meanwhile, Jo Carr-West, partner in the family department at Hunters Solicitors, noted today's case was likely to be of interest of footballer Ryan Giggs, who is reported to be taking a special contribution argument to the high court in the coming days.

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Carr-West said:

In Work's case, the appeal judges agreed that the word 'genius' is overused. The trial judge had said that the term should be reserved for only the truly exceptional such as Mozart or Einstein, and this was approved by the appeal judges who upheld the decision that Work's success was a result of him being in the right place at the right time...It remains to be seen whether the Courts think that the skill of Giggs' left foot equates to the compositional genius of Mozart.

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