News media around the world have declared the divorce of Russian “Fertilizer King”, Dmitry Rybolovlev, from his wife of 24 years, the most expensive in history. Given that a Swiss divorce court just awarded the soon to be ex-Mrs. Rybolovlev $4.5 billion, the title may seem justified. However, Russian oligarchs don’t make billions by giving money away. Will Rybolovlev end up paying? Or is the Swiss court order not worth a pile of his fine manure?


Why the Fertilizer King Must Divide his Kingdom

The $4.5 billion settlement amount is shocking because of it’s sheer size. However, the math used to reach this value is simple, it is roughly half of Rybolovlev’s current estimated worth of $8.8 billion. At the end of day it is all about community property.

When the Rybolovlevs married in 1987, they were far from being mega-rich. His wife was by his side for over two decades as he made billions in the fertilizer industry by buying and selling potash companies. She remained with him when he was charged with murder and spent 11 months in jail until he was ultimately exonerated. The position of the Swiss court, is that all the billions made are the community properly of the marriage and should be divide equally between the spouses in divorce.

A Spending Spree Fit for a King

The Rybolovlev marriage ended five years ago when the tycoon’s wife filed for divorce in Switzerland. Since the start of the divorce, Rybolovlev has been on a multi-million dollar shopping trip. He has dropped hundreds of millions on property in New York, Florida, and Hawaii. He also bought two Greek islands and a professional soccer team in Monaco. At nearly half a billion, the excessive buying appears to be an attempt to spend the money so that his wife cannot claim it.

Can Switzerland Make Him Pay?

While the divorce court in Geneva has seized all Rybolovlev’s assets in Switzerland and is moving to freeze his assets abroad, Rybolovlev has prepared to make this difficult.

Reports indicate that the majority of Rybolovlev’s fortune is held in several trusts set up in the country of Cyprus. This is advantageous for Rybolovlev as current treaties between the two countries do not include provisions for divorce settlements. Banks in Cyprus may therefore be able to ignore or delay executing court orders from Geneva.

The Fertilizer King may not have outsmarted the courts yet. In order to file an appeal in Swiss courts, he will need to hand over a check for the full $4.5 Billion. That is a massive price tag just to have your day in court. Still, Rybolovlev has over 4 billion reasons to do everything he can to try and reduce the most expensive divorce in history.

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