Usually, when a multi-million-dollar divorce blows through the courts, people sit up and listen. However, such is the state of several oligarch marriages that they’re starting to pass by unnoticed.
The divorce of Russian diamond dealer Dmitry Tsvetkov and his wife, Elsina Khayrova, should be a blockbuster. The couple had lived in a $31 million mansion and owned five apartments in London, as well as properties in Cyprus and a penthouse in Dubai. She is accused of stealing his passport, which she denies, and she further claims that he is withholding access to cars, jewelry, and art worth millions.
Making things even spicier is Tsvetkov’s relationship to Russia. Now a British citizen, he was placed on the Kremlin’s “most wanted” list last year and claimed he would likely be murdered if he ever returned to his homeland. To complicate matters even further, Khayrova’s father happens to be a Russian member of parliament, who once served as the Republic of Tatarstan’s finance minister. Not surprisingly, this caused a little tension in their marriage, with Tsvetkov last year declaring that “our relationship is complicated.”
However, we live in strange times, and this means that the Tsvetkov-Khayrova divorce—a breakup so calamitous that the husband has literally taken to driving around in an armor-plated car so that he won’t be killed—still only qualifies for the minor leagues.
Much more impressive is the split between Farkhad and Tatiana Akhmedov. Not only is theirs the most expensive divorce case in the history of the U.K., it was a breakup suffused with so much Succession-style familial suffering that the presiding judge even stretched to quoting Tolstoy in her ruling. “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” she said, adding, “With apologies to Tolstoy, the Akhmedov family is one of the unhappiest ever to have appeared in my courtroom.”
The rancor here stemmed from the fact that the couple’s 27-year-old son, Temur Akhmedov, had apparently been dragged into the whole messy affair. A former London School of Economics student, Akhmedov Jr.—who once lost $50 million in risky trades and on another occasion claimed not to know if he owned a $490,000 Rolls-Royce affixed with a license plate featuring his own initials—was accused of hiding his father’s wealth to prevent his mother from receiving her $627 million settlement. Among the contested assets were a $42 million apartment, artworks by Rothko and Warhol, and a $436 million super-yacht called Luna, complete with its own missile-detection system.
Now a British citizen, Tsvetkov was placed on the Kremlin’s “most wanted” list last year and claimed he would likely be murdered if he ever returned to his homeland.
Although the couple actually divorced in 2016, the Akhmedovs were recently hauled back into court so that Tatiana could sue her son for the money she claims he hid for his father. During the trial, she even raided his apartment and seized his Playstation. Ahead of the case, Temur was served with a worldwide freezing order that limited his spending to just $4,200 a week, causing him to protest that “maybe for the average person that seems like a fucking crazy amount, but in reality it’s different.”
A month ago, Tatiana Akhmedova succeeded in her pursuit—Temur was ordered to pay her $105 million, and The Times of London named her attorney, Alan Gourgey, its lawyer of the week. At the time a spokesperson for Temur called the ruling “a price worth paying for should it lead to a reasonable settlement between the parents he both loves,” but even that turned out to be optimistic.
This week, it was reported in The Times that Tatiana has hired a team of mercenaries to travel to Dubai and take possession of her ex-husband’s super-yacht by “all options available.” Her team claims that they have already successfully procured his helicopter, private jet, and a speedboat that had been customized with a 1965 Ferrari GTO steering wheel. Still, as the saying goes, you can take a man’s freakishly obnoxious modes of transport, but you can never take his dignity.
Among the contested assets were a $42 million apartment, artworks by Rothko and Warhol, and a $436 million super-yacht called Luna, complete with its own missile-detection system.
But even these staggering sums appear ready to be dwarfed by the upcoming trial between Russia’s second-wealthiest oligarch, Vladimir Potanin, and his ex-wife, Natalia Potanina. If she is successful, she stands to be awarded up to $8 billion. To put it in context, that would easily be the most lucrative divorce in British history. It is more than 10 times the amount that Tatiana Akhmedova was awarded, and more than 250 times what Elsina Khayrova could win in her increasingly Toytown-looking settlement.
The Potanins had already divorced in Russia, with Natalia receiving around $42 million. However, as with the Akhmedovs, the ex-wife is now using the more lenient English courts to chase down a payday, since the Russian settlement didn’t take into account the money her former husband owned through trusts and other corporate vehicles. She is now seeking half of his total wealth. And since he is one of Russia’s richest documented billionaires, not to mention the 55th-richest man on the planet, that amounts to quite a chunk.
More details will inevitably surge forth when the case makes it to court, but all signs point to this being an especially juicy case. The Potanins were childhood sweethearts, meeting as impoverished teenagers in the Soviet Union. But when Communism fell, in the 1990s, Vladimir became incredibly successful in the nickel industry. He now enjoys enough of a position of power to play ice hockey with Vladimir Putin. Yet, long gone are the days of $8.5 million summer holidays with the family, as Natalia claims that the couple split up in 2013, while her ex-husband says it actually happened six years earlier.
The likelihood is that this is where the sudden rush of oligarch divorces will peak. Few men are as rich as Vladimir Potanin, so few women in the near future will be able to claim such a monumental fortune. Nevertheless, what can we learn from all this? Perhaps it’s that, given this sudden wave of ultra-lucrative divorce tourism, England should start to re-assess its relationship with wealthy Russians. Or perhaps it’s that, as is plainly shown by the agony displayed throughout these three cases, no amount of money can buy happiness. But I prefer to be optimistic. All these divorces mean that there are suddenly a lot of very single and very rich Russians out there. Perhaps it’s time to download Russian Tinder.
Stuart Heritage is a Kent, U.K.–based Writer at Large for AIR MAIL