The husband and wife were in their 40’s and had two young children. The parties cohabitation and marriage lasted for about 11 years. When cohabitation began in 2002 the husband already co-owned the company ASOS. His shares at that time were valued at around £4.84 million in today’s terms. The wife did not work during their relationship. The company was now worth over £2 billion and the spouses assets were valued at £219.5 million. The husband had sold some of his shares since separation for £20 million pounds to buy three investment properties. The wife contended that all of the assets constituted matrimonial property except for £4.84 million constituting the value of the husband’s shares when they began cohabiting. She sought £107 million. The husband stated that all of his shareholdings should be excluded as non-matrimonial property as the business had begun before the parties met. He offered £30 million. The wife was awarded £69.5 million. The court outlined the following principles:
The context of passive growth from Jones v Jones is a tool and not a rule. The overarching duty of the court is to exercise its powers to reach a decision which is fair to both parties on the facts and in the particular circumstances of the case. To exclude the matrimonial assets of only 4.84 million arrived at by applying the passive growth methodology seemed to be unfair to the husband and over generous to the wife;
The husband had not proved a special contribution in terms of his business acumen. The court found that he was not a genius and the courts should ensure that they did not discriminate against the wife and homemaker. Both parties should be regarded as contributing equally to the welfare of the family;
The court completely rejected the argument of the husband that just because the husband was highly successful and could afford to employ domestic staff the wife should as a result receive less from the settlement. The wife despite the domestic help remained an excellent homemaker and mother;
The husband already owned the ASOS shares before the parties met. They had significant value then but had greatly increased in value during the cohabitation and marriage. The court found that it would be unfair on the husband to merely discount the 4.8 million value of the shares when they met as he had worked a great deal on the business project before the marriage. At the same time the court found that the shares could not be carved out and left out of account all together. The only fair way to treat the shares was not in an accountancy exercise but by adopting a broad brush discretion and treating the pre-existing shares and the investment properties as to half as the husband’s non matrimonial property and half as the matrimonial property of the parties to be evenly shared.
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