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$15 Billion Divorce – How Much Is Enough?

It doesn't matter whether a marital estate is $15 billion or $1,500 - equitable division works the same way to divide property between divorcing spouses. Vladimir Potanin, Russia's richest man is learning this lesson. Ex-wife of Russia's richest man wants half of his $15 billion fortune, by Matthew Chance,, June 8, 2015. He and his wife of 30 years, Natalia Potanina, divorced last year but are apparently still working out the property settlement. Potanin offered Natalia alimony of $250,000 per month plus various properties around the world. Natalia rejected his offer, claiming it is only a small amount of what is rightfully hers under Russian law. According to Natalia, Potanin owns 30% of a $30 billion nickel producing company and retains an ownership in several other companies. Under Russian law, wealth acquired during marriage should be divided equally. Thus, Natalia claims she is entitled to $15 billion. (Interestingly, she does not want to keep the shares of the nickel company but, rather, wants to give them to the state so that a portion of the company is under state control.) For his part, Potanin's lawyer has said the current offer should be "more than enough."

Even though the offer may be "more than enough" for Natalia to live on, this does not mean she is not entitled to more under the law. If this divorce were in Georgia, all marital property would be subject to equitable division. If Potanin had these business interests before the marriage, they would be his separate property. However, anything acquired during the marriage would be divided equitably between the parties. Since these parties have been married for 30 years, it is safe to assume that he acquired these business interests during the marriage. Thus, in Georgia, a court would divided them equitably, considering any relevant factors particular to this former couple's marriage. Potanin could try to show why in their unique case, he should be a larger portion of the marital estate. However, if Natalia is correct in her assertion that wealth acquired during the marriage is divided equally in Russia, then Potanin will likely have lighter pockets after the hearing on July 1.

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