Ex-Wife vs. Billionaire: With a $29.9 billion fortune, Vladimir Potanin is currently the richest person in Russia and faces the possibility of losing a sizable portion of his money. It’s interesting to note that his ex-wife poses this risk rather than the sanctions put in place by the US, UK, or EU. The sanctions, which looked intimidating at the time, are now eclipsed by the fact that this sanctioned Russian businessman is currently involved in a legal battle with his ex-wife in the UK Supreme Court, which could result in the largest-ever divorce settlement in English legal history.
Natalia Potanina, Vladimir Potanin’s wife of 31 years, is the subject of a multibillion-pound lawsuit that she filed in London. In an attempt to overturn Natalia Potanina’s $9 billion demand, Vladimir Potanin is going to appeal a Court of Appeal decision. Famously, courts in London tend to favor an equitable division of marital assets in divorce disputes, and the city is a global center for divorce litigation.
Despite Potanin’s legal team’s best efforts to thwart Mrs. Potanina’s claim in a capital hearing, they contend that she is entitled to a just share of the family’s riches amassed throughout their marriage. The ex-spouse is requesting 50% of his shares in the mining company Norilsk Nickel, 50% of the dividends received on those shares since 2014, and 50% of the market value of a Russian property known as The Autumn House.
Mr. Potanin was able to stop his ex-wife’s effort to bring legal action against him in England in 2019. But when the Court of Appeal permitted Mrs. Potanina to pursue her case in 2021, things took a different turn. Even though the Russian millionaire was subject to sanctions by June 2022, the benefits from his wife’s legal claims outweighed any negative consequences. The 62-year-old tycoon transferred his $300 million superyacht, Nirvana, to a haven in Dubai as soon as possible in retaliation. The spectacular six-deck Oceanco catamaran, complete with a 3D cinema, spa, and casino-style game area, is still docked in Dubai, even though UK authorities have labeled it as prohibited property.
For all Potanin’s initial relief, the notoriously equitable English legal system suggests he may ultimately lose his Nirvana Yacht in what could end up being one of the largest divorce settlements ever. The wife of billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov, Tatiana Akhmedova, had this title until recently. She was awarded the highest divorce settlement ever made public, which came to $640 million.
The $320 million+ estimated value of their opulent boat, Luna, was also entangled in the legal battle. In contrast, Potanina had previously been awarded what was referred to as a “small award” in the region of $40 million during Russian divorce proceedings; nevertheless, Potanin maintains that she finally won $84 million. In addition to significantly exceeding Akhmedov’s settlement, the proposed $9 billion claim puts the billionaire in serious financial peril.
Vladimir Potanin, a Moscow native, is well-known for having helped create Russia’s “loans-for-shares” scheme. When he teamed up with future billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov at the age of 30, his life took a completely different turn. They co-founded Onexim Bank in 1992 and the International Company for Finance & Investments, which at the time, according to Bloomberg, was Russia’s biggest private bank. Potanin and Prokhorov acquired a majority stake in Norilsk Nickel in 1995. Apart from the $300 million megayacht Nirvana, Potanin also owned a 248-foot motor yacht named Anastasia, which was sold for $72 million in 2018. Anastasia was named after his daughter.