K J Smith Solicitors

US banker’s claim to be a genius rejected by judges in divorce case

Published: 24 April 2017

The appeal court has decided to back the initial ruling that a banker’s contribution to his marriage was not exceptional, and therefore Randy Work has been ordered to pay his ex-wife, Mandy Gray, half of their fortune. The Americans met in 1992 before marrying in 1995, having two children during their marriage, both of which are now teenagers.

After the court of appeal rejected Randy Work’s claim that his ‘genius’ outweighed any aspect of his wife’s contribution to their marriage, he was told to pay her half of their fortune; a sum that would see her receive approximately £70m.

Mr Work originally claimed that his former wife should only be entitled to £5m because she ‘unfortunately’ failed to honour the terms that were in their prenuptial agreement, by having an affair with their personal physiotherapist in 2013 – with whom she now lives in a rented flat in Kensington. A high court judge rejected the arguments made by Mr Work that he had made an ‘exceptional contribution’ to their marriage and that he should therefore receive more than half of their assets. Amongst other things, their assets include a £30m mansion with a swimming pool and fitness centre, based in West London, and an £18m ski lodge located in Aspen, Colorado.

Whilst ruling on the couple’s divorce back in 2015, Justice Holman suggested that the businessman’s wealth contribution was not ‘wholly exceptional’ and rejected claims made by Mr Work of being a financial ‘genius’. This came after Mr Work said that his wealth contribution totalled over $300m in 10 years, leading to his self-proclaimed financial genius title.

Commenting on the subject of Mr Work being a financial genius, Holman said: ‘I personally find that a difficult, and perhaps unhelpful, word in this context. To my mind, the word “genius” tends to be overused and is properly reserved for Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Einstein and others like them.’

After spending more than £3m in an attempt to defend the family fortune, Mr Work took their case to the court of appeal, in early April 2017, which unanimously rejected the appeal against Holman’s initial ruling.

In recent years, London has come to be seen as a place where there is little discrimination between breadwinner and homemaker in divorce cases, typically awarding equal splits to the combined fortunes of former couples. Despite this, Mr Work had hoped that he would join the short list of men that had been granted more than half of the assets, by convincing the court of appeal judges of the ‘wholly exceptional nature’ of his success.

Particular cases that saw men awarded more than half of joint assets includethe 2005 case when Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder of advertising firm WPP, was granted 60% of assets during his divorce from his former wife Sandra. A more recent case from 2014 saw Chris Hohn, the founder of hedge fund ‘The Children’s Investment Fund’, receive 64% of a $1.5bn fortune.

Within the ruling made by Holman, it was heard that while Mr Work was indeed an ‘astute businessman’, his former wife was ‘highly intelligent’ and had given up her career in order to go to Tokyo with her husband, a place where he had generated hundreds of millions of pounds during the financial crisis that had hit Japan.

Holman said that a successful claim to a special contribution ‘requires some exceptional and individual quality in the spouse concerned. Being in the right place at the right time or benefiting from a period of boom is not enough. It may one day fall for consideration whether a very highly paid footballer, who is very good at his job but may be no more skilful than past greats, such as Stanley Matthews or Bobby Charlton, makes a special contribution or is merely the lucky beneficiary of the colossal payments now made possible by the sale of television rights.’

Holman also went on to say that Mr Work and Ms Gray were ‘two strong and equal partners’, and that Mr Work would not have been able to generate the wealth he did without her contribution. He also said that the settling of their particular case ‘should be so easy’ given that there was ‘plenty of money to go round’, criticising the couple in the process.

If you are thinking about separation or divorce then K J Smith Solicitors can help. Our team will strive to deliver a positive outcome without conflict and in the most amicable way possible.

For more information or to arrange a free 45-minute consultation, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) 01483 370100 (Guildford) or 01494 629000 (Beaconsfield).

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