All yours! Ex-wife wins fight for £40m mansion: Russian tycoon must sacrifice London home
- The house has been at the centre of a legal wrangle during an ‘extremely acrimonious’ divorce
The ex-wife of a fabulously wealthy Russian politician has fought off his bid for a half share of their £40million London home.
Olga Slutsker, 47, started an empire of health clubs using her husband Vladimir’s money and ploughed the profits into the mansion in the capital’s second most expensive street.
But when the marriage hit the rocks, multi-millionaire Mr Slutsker, 56, declared that he was entitled to a 50 per cent share, and launched a legal battle to secure it.
Acrimonious split: Vladimir Slutkser, up, and his former wife Olga took their battle to the High Court
Rather than being in either of their names the house, in The Boltons in South Kensington, was held through a trust on behalf of their children. Mr Slutsker argued that he had been ‘hoodwinked’ into this arrangement.
But yesterday a judge dismissed his claim, ruling that although neither of the pair appeared to be a ‘reliable witness’, he was taking the wife’s side. It means the entire £40million value of the property is hers.
Mrs Slutsker, a fencing champion, and her husband, a karate expert, married in Russia in 1990. While Mr Slutsker pursued his political career as a member of the Russian Federation Council, his wife decided to launch a gym in Moscow.
Using a £150,000 loan from her husband she established the World Class gym in 1993, and as Russia’s new rich clamoured to join exclusive establishments with Western standards, she was soon opening new branches and raking in millions a year in membership fees.
Valuable asset: The £40million house which has been at the centre of a legal wrangle between the couple
A noted socialite famous for wearing cowboy boots in her homeland, she gained a reputation as a tough businesswoman, and made plenty of enemies along the way.
And with her husband involved in the dangerous field of Russian politics, they decided following a death threat to Mr Slutsker to buy a house in London as a ‘safe haven for the family’. The couple have two children, a son, now 13, and daughter, now nine.
The mansion in The Boltons – the capital’s second most expensive street after Kensington Palace Gardens – was bought for £6million in 2001. Mrs Slutsker used profits from her health clubs to convert it from four sumptuous flats into a family home, which rocketed in value.
But the couple’s marriage hit the rocks and three years ago they went through an ‘extremely acrimonious’ divorce.
Last year Mrs Slutsker won a Russian court fight for custody of their children – after claiming that her husband spoiled them by letting them play computer games and watch cartoons all the time, and alleging that the heavily-guarded Moscow home where he kept them was ‘like a prison camp’.
Mr Slutsker had claimed 50 per cent of the beneficial interest in the house – but the judge dismissed his claim
In the High Court in London, Mr Slutsker argued that he had been ‘hoodwinked’ into the trust deal over the London mansion, which would deprive him of his 50 per cent interest in the property under Russian law.
He described the move to put the house in his wife’s control as an ‘ugly plan’ which swindled him out of his rights.
But in his judgment yesterday, Mr Justice Underhill said it was ‘plausible’ that the ownership of offshore assets was a ‘sensitive matter’ for Russian politicians.
As a result, he was inclined to the view that Mr Slutsker had not wanted a ‘paper trail’ linking him to the house. The judge said it, therefore, became Mrs Slutsker’s ‘project’ and should be treated as her and the children’s home.
Mr Justice Underhill said that while it was right that the £6million paid to buy the property was ‘joint family property’, and while it might at first sight seem ‘harsh’, in his judgment Mr Slutsker has no rights to the property.
The judge said while he may not have intended to make a gift of the property to his wife and children, he never objected to his wife’s decision to hold it on trust for the children.
The judge said: ‘I do not see anything fundamentally unjust in Mr Slutsker being unable now to set aside arrangements made long ago on the basis that he had not taken the trouble to understand how they might work out in the event of a breakdown of the marriage.
‘That is quite apart from any consideration of the fact that the arrangements may have suited him in his role as a senator.’
Mr Justice Underhill said the house was Mrs Slutsker’s (pictured) ‘project’ and a home for her and the children
The Slutskers have both long retired from competitive fencing and karate and in recent years have busied themselves in a series of court battles.
Mrs Slutsker successfully sued her former chauffeur for smearing her moral character in the Russian media – winning a symbolic one rouble – and launched other legal fights against a former nanny, and several Russian publications.
Mr Slutsker, meanwhile, three years ago fought a legal action that led to a journalist being jailed for eight years for extortion.
Mrs Slutsker has in recent years attempted to follow her husband into Russian politics, and has made clear that she repaid him the money he lent her to launch her health clubs.
Before their divorce, she spoke about her husband’s determination to be the one who wore the trousers. ‘If I start acting the boss at home, my husband stops me at once,’ she said.