Billionaire’s daughter with Saudi royal connections and husband ‘with nothing but debts’ spend more than £1m on divorce battle
A marriage between a billionaire’s daughter with royal connections and a husband with ‘nothing but debts’ has ended in a nightmare divorce battle, racking up lawyers’ bills of more than £1million.
Nora Ali Musallam, 42, a scion of a wealthy family with ‘close links’ to the Saudi royal, brought all the wealth into her marriage to husband Salim Alyami when they wed in 1998.
The couple raised three children at their £2.7m five-bedroom flat in Holland Park, west London – where they also enjoyed the benefits of two live-in staff and a full time driver paid for by the wife’s family money.
Nora Ali Musallam, up, a billionaire’s daughter with royal connections, has been locked in a nightmare divorce battle with her husband Salim Alyami, down, who has ‘nothing but debts’
But the relationship came to an end when the marriage broke down in 2008 and the couple descended into a legal dogfight over money and their children.
The wife reacted with ‘outrage’ when she was ordered by a family judge to buy her husband – a former employee of her family who was by then living in a ‘£300-a-month depressing shared bedsit’ – a £450,000 house and to hand him a £50,000 lump sum towards paying off his £370,000 debts.
The husband was also unhappy with the result, as he had spent almost £500,000 battling his ex-wife – which the judge refused to pay out of the marital assets – and has been left heavily in debt to his own legal team.
Jonathan Swift, for Mr Alyami, asked Lord Justice Thorpe, Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Richards, sitting at the Appeal Court, to give the husband a bigger slice of his ex’s fortune.
The barrister told the court that, until his death in 2004, the wife’s father was a senior advisor to King Fahad of Saudi Arabia.
He said: ‘The husband avers that he left an estate worth circa $5bn. Although he had three wives and 19 children, the wife was a significant beneficiary of the estate under Islamic law.’
He added that the wife ‘disputes the size of her father’s estate.’
Luxury: The couple raised three children at their £2.7m five-bedroom flat in Holland Park, west London, pictured
Last year, Mr Justice Coleridge ordered the wife to pay over a £450,000 ‘housing fund’ to her ex so he could move out his bedsit and buy a house suitable for his children to visit. But the judge refused to order payment of his towering legal bills out of his ex-wife’s money.
In his ruling, the judge said: ‘I suspect neither side will be happy with the result. The wife will feel it is an outrage that she has to provide for her ex-husband at all, and certainly not at this level.
‘The husband will feel he should have benefited far more from the extensive family wealth as he sees it.
‘The husband really has nothing but debts and no employment at the moment…I have tried to balance the competing claims whilst keeping an eye firmly on the children’s interests (and) the children’s need for the continuation of a secure home…in circumstances where there is no support coming from the husband and the wife is footing the whole bill for their support.’
The judge structured his payout to the husband, so that his house remains in his ex-wife’s name but he has sole use of it and will receive half the value of the property when it is sold after the couple’s children come of age.
The barrister told the court that, until his death in 2004, Nora’s father was a senior advisor to King Fahad of Saudi Arabia, pictured
Mr Swift asked the judges to increase the husband’s £50,000 lump sum to £320,000 to enable him to clear his remaining debt to his lawyers, arguing that legal costs are usually ordered to be paid out of the assets of the marriage in divorce cases.
Dismissing the husband’s appeal, Lord Justice Thorpe said that, while he was ‘not pleased with the outcome’, he was not entitled to more of his ex-wife money.
Bemoaning the ‘profligacy’ on both sides, the judge observed that the husband had spent money fighting the divorce which he knew he didn’t have.
‘The reality of the case is that the husband has run up a bill of nearly half a million pounds without having any assets with which to discharge it other than the £60,000 he managed to scrape together,’ he observed.
‘This situation ought never to have developed. The costs in this case are quite disproportionate to the issues that had to be decided.
‘It seems to me it is impossible for the husband to identify any point of principle or practice that would come to his aid to circumscribe the judge’s discretion.’
The wife had also spent over £800,000 on lawyers, observed the judge, who added: ‘There is a measure of profligacy in the bills on both sides.
‘The submission that the judge should have been led to make a higher order is, to put it mildly, unpersuasive. I regard this appeal as being quite without merit.
‘I don’t think it is reasonable here for the wife to make anything like the contribution that the husband seeks without seriously jeopardising the wife and children’s position.’
Nicholas Cusworth QC, who represented the wife, said outside court that the additional costs of losing the appeal would all but wipe out the husband’s £50,000 lump sum.
‘Almost all the lump sum will be swallowed up by costs,’ he said.