Russia's second-richest man could be forced to pay one of the largest divorce bills in history, as his ex-wife sues him for a quarter of his fortune in a British court.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that Vladimir Potanin faces a new legal battle with his former spouse in a civil suit filed in London. British judges have previously been known to divide a couple's assets equally in such cases.
Potanin is worth around $30 billion, according to Forbes, much of it thanks to a massive stake in Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel. But he stands to lose more than $7 billion of that fortune if his ex-wife, Natalia Potanina, succeeds in suing him for 50% of his shares in the firm, which is one of the world's largest metal producers.
If backed by the judge, Potanina would stand to collect the third-largest divorce payout in history, after those involving Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Microsoft pioneer Bill Gates. In 2019, Bezos paid his ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, $38 billion worth of stock in his company, immediately making her one of the richest women in the world. Earlier this year, it was reported that Gates and his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, would be splitting a fortune worth more than $131 billion following their separation.
The largest publicly known divorce payout in the UK, where the case will be heard, is $631 million, which went to the wife of billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov, although the two are understood to have settled with a payment worth less than a third of that amount.
Potanina claims to have already received $40 million after divorce proceedings in Russia, while Potanin insists that she got $84 million. In a previous decision, a British judge called this a "paltry award" considering his wealth and their 31-year marriage.
Potanina successfully overturned a decision in a lower court that accused her of "divorce tourism." Her ex-husband is now waiting to hear whether the UK Supreme Court will consider his appeal to throw out the case.
The billionaire businessman made his fortune in the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, when he acquired his stake in Norilsk Nickel through the controversial 'loans for shares' program, which created other ultra-wealthy tycoons such as Roman Abramovich. He and Potanina married in 1983 and announced their divorce in 2014.