A Fight to Remember: The Top 5 Nastiest Divorces of the 2010s

There’s no limit to how low the rich and powerful will stoop when in the throes of a multi-million-dollar (or billion-dollar) divorce battle.  Whether it’s a celebrity smearing a spouse through the tabloids, an investment titan sullying a mansion with fart spray, or a Russian oligarch absconding with a yacht, it seems like anything goes for these elites, and no holds are barred.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest, ugliest divorces from the past decade.

1. The case of the missing $500 million yacht

Azerbaijan-born trader Farkhad Akhmedov made a $1.4 billion fortune in the Russian natural gas business. The oligarch later moved with his family to the U.K. Then he was ordered to pay more than 40 percent of his marital wealth to his wife, Tatiana, in the U.K.’s largest-ever divorce settlement.

“Toilet paper,” he reportedly called the judgment. According to proceedings she filed in 2018, he took steps to conceal his assets from her, including protecting his 377-foot mega-yacht, the Luna, through a network in shell companies.

The yacht, which Akhmedov purchased from his oligarch friend and well-known giant boat aficionado Roman Abramovich, can house 18 guests and 50 crew members comfortably, according to court papers. Boasting nine decks, it is equipped with bullet-proof windows, bomb-resistant doors, an anti-missile system, two helipads,  a mini-submarine, and “the largest swimming pool of any super-yacht.” The value of the boat is a staggering $500 million.

Authorities and dry-docked in Dubai seized The Luna. After lengthy court battles in the U.K., the UAE and elsewhere, Akhmedov was ordered to hand over possession of the yacht. Although he appealed, Tatiana eventually prevailed with help from global litigation finance company Burford Capital.

2. Much ado over a prenuptial agreement

If you think a prenup will save you from a messy divorce, think again. Ken Griffin, the founder of the Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel (also Illinois’s richest man), got into a contentious dispute with his soon-to-be ex-wife, Anne Dias Griffin, over a prenuptial agreement.

Under the arrangement, Anne was owed a $22.5 million lump sum plus $1 million for every year of their marriage. At the time of their divorce, Griffin was the country’s top-earning hedge fund manager, and worth about $7 billion.

When Griffin filed for divorce, Anne countered that she had been coerced into signing the prenup the night before her wedding and that she was unfairly cut out of billions of dollars amassed during their 11-year marriage.

As part of the fight, Anne claimed she was entitled to payments including $6,800 per month for groceries, $7,200 per month for restaurants, $8,000 per month for gifts and $2,000 per month for stationery. She also said she spent $1 million per month overall on child-rearing-related expenses, including the cost of international jet travel, a personal chef, and vacation rentals.

Griffin disputed many of those expenses, saying she was improperly characterizing parts of living an “opulent” lifestyle as “child support.” He also declined to fund a $450,000 vacation to St. Bart’s during the children’s winter break.

The two were set to go to trial over the validity of the agreement when a settlement was reached in 2015. Although the terms were not disclosed, Forbes confirmed in 2016 that Griffin had come out ahead, remaining at the top of the pack of hedge fund founders and worth $1 billion more than he was at the time of his divorce, thanks to his investment savvy.

3. “Brangelina” goes bust

The world recoiled in the early 2000s when movie star Brad Pitt split up with “Friends” actress, and the owner of what became television’s most influential hairstyle, Jennifer Aniston. After that romance fizzled, fans quickly embraced a new Hollywood power-couple: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Jolie, a super-star in her own right, had fallen in love with Pitt while the two were filming spy thriller “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” so the story goes. For a while, it seemed like they lived a charmed life, supporting each other in their blindingly successful careers, amassing a half-dozen biological and adopted children, and advancing humanitarian causes.

However, things aren’t always as they seem. News broke that “Brangelina” was on the rocks in 2016. The divorce turned ugly in the best way Hollywood types know how – through a volley of nasty accusations leaked to the press -- as the two battled over child custody.

First came allegations from that Pitt was “verbally abusive” and got “physical” with one of the couple’s children on their private plane. Police later confirmed they were not investigating Pitt for child abuse. The child, also, was not injured in the event.

Then came claims that Pitt wasn’t paying “meaningful” child support. Pitt fired back that he had already paid millions. Sources also told tabloids that Jolie was behaving like a “monster mom.”

Finally, they reached a truce. Pitt admitted in an interview to suffering from a drinking problem, which he was seeking help for, and the barrage of salacious media scoops ended.

4. The scorned pesticide empress

A Staten Island pesticide mogul is facing accusations from his soon-to-be ex-wife that he is blowing the family’s assets on yacht trips, strip clubs, and an endless stream of paramours.

Dean and Robyn Billings, said to be headed for Staten Island’s most expensive divorce fight, wed in 2000 at the idyllic Tavern on the Green in Manhattan’s Central Park. They shared one of Staten Island’s fanciest mansions, employed three housekeepers, and kept his and her Ferraris.

Then things went downhill. Robyn filed for divorce, claiming that her husband has been cheating on her with an assortment of women, and taking numerous drug and alcohol-fueled excursions.

“He took my lifestyle from me and my money, and he’s shoving it in my face that he’s giving it to other women,” she told the New York Post. She also spoke out about her divorce in an assortment of social media posts, featuring herself in skimpy clothing, luxury vehicles, and her own custom-made monogrammed Gucci sneakers.

Dean’s lawyer has denied her allegations.

5. The ‘Grossest’ divorce yet

For many years, Bill Gross was considered an oracle of the financial world, a folksy, down-to-earth self-made billionaire commanding awe on the level of Warren Buffett. Apart from his investing career, he lived a quiet life, enjoyed mathematics and novels, gave gobs of money to charity, and appeared to have a warm and stable family life.

So much for all that. In 2016, Sue Gross filed for divorce from Bill citing “irreconcilable differences.” The move led to an all-out war. After Bill was kicked out of the couple’s mansion, Sue accused him of hiring an “army of spies” to monitor her.

He then bought a property across the street from her relatives. She, in turn, accused him of abusing the couple’s three cats by keeping his home too warm. She also admitted to craftily stealing a Picasso from him, by painting a replica and swapping it out for the original.

The most ridiculous allegation? Sue claimed that when he was evicted from the $36 million home he shared with her, he left it reeking of dead fish, which he allegedly left in the air vents, and “fart spray.”  A malodorous end indeed.


Dror Bikel

Dror Bikel co-founded Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield, New York’s best known firm for high-conflict matrimonial disputes. A New York Superlawyer℠ and twice recognized (2020 and 2021) New York Divorce Trial Lawyer of the Year, Dror’s reputation as a fearsome advocate in difficult custody and divorce disputes has led him to deliver solid outcomes in some of New York’s most complex family law trials. Attorney Bikel is a frequent commentator on high profile divorces for national and international media outlets. His book The 1% Divorce - When Titans Clash was a 5-category Amazon bestseller.

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