Sunday, October 15, 2006


By Neil McLeod

SOCCER billionaire Roman Abramovich faces the biggest divorce payout in history as his marriage hits the rocks.

The News of the World can reveal that the Chelsea tycoon's wife Irina has called in top lawyers following his close friendship with beauty Daria Zhokova, 23.

Last week Abramovich, 40, failed to get a court injuction to stop us exposing the relationship - now he stands to lose HALF his £11 billion fortune.

Irina has called on two of Britain's toughest divorce lawyers — nicknamed Jaws and Mr Payout — in a bombshell move that follows months of marital misery.

If she wins a £5.5 billion settlement from the Chelsea owner it would dwarf the world's current record divorce payout of £1 billion.

One insider said last night: "It simply is too big to comprehend. There are oceans of cash to be split, companies, yachts, homes and cars.

"This could be the divorce battle to end all divorce battles."

We can reveal that Irina, 39, the mother of Rom's five children, has called in lawyers Sears Tooth, one of the country's leading divorce firms.

They acted for Cheryl Barrymore in her split from comic Michael and for Sadie Frost in her break-up with Hollywood actor Jude Law.

Irina has kept several appointments at their London offices over the past two weeks.

Boss Raymond Tooth, known as Jaws in the legal trade because of his fearsome reputation, saw her personally.

She instructed the firm to take her case past the talking stage and they have already appointed one of Britain's leading divorce barristers to handle the case if it goes to court.

Slick QC Nicholas Mostyn, 49, is known as Mr Payout because of his amazing success rate — including winning £4 million for former England star Ray Parlour's wife Karen.

The £500-an-hour court showman has also been drafted into Sir Paul McCartney's team in his divorce fight against Heather Mills.

Despite being driven in a limo and guarded by ex-SAS bodyguards, Irina was able to visit the Park Lane offices of Sears Tooth without fuss.

Her visits have come to light following our revelations last week about her husband and beautiful brunette Daria Zhukova, 17 years his junior. Abramovich tried to gag us with a High Court injunction but failed.

A source revealed last night: "They were kept very hush hush. She met with Raymond Tooth, the top man in the whole company and he will be over-seeing her business personally. Some clients can get handed down to other partners, but not a lady who can lay claim to part of £11bn.

"Irina is tough and means business. Things have gone well beyond the stage of making a simple enquiry.

"It will obviously be a massively complicated case as Abramovich has dozens upon dozens of businesses, accounts, holdings and funds."

For months the Chelsea boss has rarely been seen with his wife and has been jetting all over the world for meetings with stunning model Daria. Another source said: "The Abramovich marriage has been suffering for some time now. They have struggled to keep it under wraps but many people have noticed.

"They live pretty much separate lives. She has long been frustrated by his devotion to his business interests and football, now she has to contend with his close relationship with another woman.

"He does a lot of globe-trotting — but she cannot follow him everywhere he goes because she, not a team of nannies, looks after their children.

"There is more to the marriage split than just Roman's relationship with Daria. In truth, Irina was seeking to do something about the marriage long before news of that relationship broke.

"But now it has, it will be very difficult for her to turn back. It is sad but it seems this really is irreversible."

Abramovich, who bought Chelsea for £140 million three years ago, started out as a penniless orphan and is now the world's 11th richest man. His wealth in cash alone is estimated at £8 billion.

As for homes, his collection of mansions is his pride and joy.

He owns the £18 million, 420-acre Fyning Hill Estate in West Sussex, a £29 million penthouse in Kensington, and the £15 million former home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Chateaux de la Croe in France.

He has an £11 million five-storey listed house in Belgravia, an £18 million six-storey mansion in Knightsbridge, a £10 million pad in St Tropez and a 104-acre estate near Moscow worth £8 million.

He once ordered a £4 million extension at Fyning Hill to be knocked down because it was too small, and told builders to put up a £5 million replacement.

Then there is the fleet of ships. Flagship is the £72 million Pelorus, which has bulletproof glass and its own submarine.

Another, the Ecstasea, is also worth £72 million. It has its own pool and Turkish bath.

A third cruiser, Le Grand Blue, cost a modest £60 millon and has its own helipad. It is used mainly for staff. A fourth "gigayacht" worth £100 million is under construction.

He also has his own aircraft — a £56 million Boeing 767, a £28 million Boeing Business jet, and two helicopters worth £35 million.

He has a fleet of cars and spent £1 million on two made-to-order versions of the world's most exclusive car, the Maybach 62, for him and his wife.

One of Irina's first tasks, as with any divorce, will be to list all of her husband's wealth.

But Abramovich — who rarely gives interviews and remains a man of mystery — may not want his business dealings revealed in court.

Our source said: "The whole thing may simply be too complicated for him to want to get involved in and an out-of-court settlement could be the best way to go."

Irina, who became his second wife in 1991, met the tycoon when he was so poor he couldn't afford a beefburger. She was his rock as his empire grew and they had five children, now aged between three and 13.

She is close pals with former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell and has been decribed as a "frenetic shopper" who loves Prada, Gucci and Armani — with London's Sloane Street said to be "the centre of her universe."

No comments: