So how much is Wendi going to get?

Ex-Murdoch files.

News arrived yesterday afternoon that the marriage between an 82-year old billionaire media tycoon and his 44-year old employee-wife (younger than two of his children) has, surprisingly, not worked out. Yes, Rupert Murdoch has filed for divorce from Wendi Deng, who bravely threw herself between her hubbie and a shaving-foam pie, citing "irretrievable breakdown".

Murdoch is worth a mere $12 bn - so how much of that does Deng stand to get? As Murdoch has filed in New York, we may never know - they are tight on the privacy of settlements. If Deng stars wearing diamond-studded solid-gold skirts, you can guess it's quite a lot.

But was he wise to file in New York? As Spear's reported late last year, "The courts of London and New York share reputations as being receptive to large divorce claims." If you look at the five legal cases which have shaped modern English divorce (the fifth of which was only delivered this week), English law definitely favours the poorer party, from using a 50/50 starting point to "piercing the corporate veil". English courts also take all assets into account.

By contrast, Suzanne Kingston and Michael Gouriet of Withers wrote, 'New York courts follow a different approach, identifying property of the parties as being either "marital property" (which generally includes assets earned during marriage) or "separate property." New York courts will "equitably distribute" the "marital property," but not the "separate property" (which generally includes pre-marital assets and inherited assets).

Always innovative, however, New York courts have expanded the traditional notion of "marital property" to include (and have placed very significant values on) various "intangible assets" such as educational degrees and professional licences, as well as business "enterprise value", and certain types of appreciation on "separate property".

So a New York settlement looks like it will have many more boxes to tick, rather than a "simple" pile-up of assets.

Finally, prenups are much longer established in America than in England, where they weren't given legal weight until the case of Radmacher v Granatino in 2010. In fact, they are not binding in England if their terms are felt too unfair (however a judge construes that), so their recent validity is susceptible to undermining.

Their two children will have to be taken into account, too: courts will ensure that they are provided for, even if (as is highly unlikely) they were ignored in a prenup.

It is probably easy to predict that Deng's settlement will be more than sufficient for most, but within that great range of millions-to-billions, there are an awful lot of points a judge might choose to stop at.

Update: Reuters reports on another billionaire tycoon divorce, of Harold Hamm (money from Continental Resources oil co) from Sue Ann. They do not, say Reuters, have a pre-nup, which means his $11 bn fortune is up for grabs. The piece is worth a read to see how things might have looked for the Murdochs.

This story first appeared on Spears magazine

In happier times. Photograph: Getty Images

Josh Spero is the editor of Spear's magazine.

Getty
Show Hide image

Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.