Over the past few years, Russian billionaires have certainly earned their fair share of criticism in the West, and a London divorce court is currently causing a serious headache for Vladamir Potanin. As Russia’s richest man, Potanin has predictably been sanctioned by the West – and his divorce trial has all the trappings of a politically charged endeavor. However, the outcome of this trial is far from certain – and Potanin may yet avoid paying his ex-wife one of the most generous divorce payouts in recorded history. 

Vladimir Potanin’s Ex-Wife is Seeking $9 Billion

Potanin’s ex-wife seems to have specifically chosen the United Kingdom to pursue her divorce. She is not the first wife of an ultra-rich individual to make this decision. UK courts have an international reputation for not only being extremely generous toward ex-wives of millionaires and billionaires, but they also have a habit of piercing the corporate veil. In other words, they tend to completely ignore the separation between personal and business assets – allowing ex-spouses to pursue unheard-of sums. 

Natalia Potanina – Vladimir’s ex-wife – is after a cool sum of $9 billion. If she proves successful, this would be one of the most lucrative divorce settlements in recorded history. It would claim second place on the world stage, beating Alec and Jocelyn Wildenstein’s $3.8-billion settlement by a considerable margin. However, it would still trail behind Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos’ $38-billion settlement – which will probably hold the record for many decades to come. The divorce settlement would also prove to be the most expensive in UK history, making the previous record (Farkhad Adkmedov’s 450-million-pound settlement) seem inconsequential.  

While it might seem unreasonable to seek $9 billion, one has to keep in mind several factors: For starters, Potanin’s net worth is reportedly bordering on $30 billion – which means that Natalia isn’t exactly attempting to leave her ex-husband penniless. Indeed, she is asking for much less than half of her husband’s wealth. She also remained married to Vladimir for more than 30 years, so it is not like she married him for just a few years before attempting to get her hands on his fortune. Russian courts apparently already awarded her with a settlement, although her lawyers call this sum “paltry.” There is some debate as to whether this sum was $40 million or $84 million USD – amounts that can hardly be described as paltry by anyone except multi-billionaires. 

Should Potanina Get Vladamir’s Nickel Dividends?

The real question is whether or not Potanina should have the ability to access assets tied up in Vladamir’s various business assets. In many cases, these business assets are kept completely separate from personal assets, and they are not divisible during divorce proceedings. Natalia apparently has her eyes on her ex-husband’s successful nickel company, called MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC. In a smart move, she is asking for 50% of her husband’s stake in the company – including dividends. These shares would be worth over $5 billion.