Mega-bucks banker turned sheep farmer battles ex-wife for £80MILLION after failed bid to avoid tax
- Banker-come-farmer Clive Standish, 70, is battling ex-wife Anna, 55, over £80m
A multi-millionaire banker turned sheep farmer is locked in a divorce battle with his ex-wife over the £132million family fortune – after handing her £80m during a failed tax avoidance bid.
Clive Standish, 70, former CFO of UBS and Australian sheep-farming tycoon, married Anna Standish, 55, in December 2005, but the couple separated in 2020 after a 15-year marriage during which they had two children.
The marital assets at the time of the split were an enormous £132million, almost all of which had grown from the £57.3million fortune that Mr Standish brought into the marriage.
Mr Standish retired in 2007, living off the profits of a £28million sheep farm down under, while the couple enjoyed life in 18-bedroom mansion Moundsmere Manor, set in 83 acres near the Hampshire village of Preston Candover, on the site of an original manor once owned by Henry VIII.
In 2016 HMRC announced changes to the inheritance tax regime, which Mr Standish feared would see his personal assets exposed to a 40 per cent tax levy upon his death.
Multi-millionaire banker turned sheep farmer Clive Standish (pictured), 70, is locked in a divorce battle with his ex-wife over the £132million family fortune – after handing her £80m during a failed tax avoidance bid
Mr Standish, 70, former CFO of UBS and Australian sheep-farming tycoon, married Anna Standish (front left, with celebrity divorce lawyer Fiona Shackleton front right), 55, in December 2005, but the couple separated in 2020 after a 15-year marriage during which they had two children
As a result, he transferred £80million worth of assets to his wife, with a plan being put in place for them to eventually be placed in a offshore trust for the benefit of their children.
But the marriage hit the rocks before that could happen, leaving the couple estranged and Mrs Standish claiming the £80m was hers outright, having been ‘gifted’ to her.
In December last year the couple clashed in the divorce courts with Mr Justice Moor ruling that the husband should get £87.6million of the total family wealth of £132,648,326, with the wife to walk away with £45million.
Now both husband and wife are fighting against that ruling in the Appeal Court.
Lawyers for the husband say the wife should have only got around £25million, claiming the division was unfair as he brought nearly all the wealth into the marriage and had never intended the £80million to be a ‘gift’ to his wife.
But lawyers for the wife want to up her share to around £56.3million, claiming that to give her less would be ‘discrimination’.
Tim Bishop KC, for the husband, told Lady Justice King, Lord Justice Moylan and Lord Justice Phillips that the husband had ‘a very successful career in banking.’
‘Consequently he acquired substantial wealth in the form of cash investments and property, including a large farm in Australia called Ardenside,’ he said.
He told the judges that in June 2004 the husband was worth £57.3million, whilst the wife ‘has no significant pre-martial wealth’.
Mr Standish is British, but moved to Australia in 1976 before moving back to England with his family in 2010.
This situation left him open to a potentially huge inheritance tax hit when prospective changes were announced in 2016 affecting anyone with a British domicile of origin returning to the UK from a country they had made their new permanent home.
In the face of this, he ‘commenced a process to shield his property from IHT’ by ‘transferring his assets to the wife to hold for a period and for the wife then to settle the transferred assets into a trust’.
‘The husband made the transfers in March 2017, but the wife failed to transfer the assets into trust by the time the marriage ran into problems in 2019 and then broke down finally in 2020,’ the barrister said.
Slamming the divorce judge’s eventual division of the assets as ‘unfair,’ the husband’s barrister argued it had been wrong for the £80m to have been regarded as having become ‘matrimonialised’ property, rather than the personal property of the husband and not to go into the pot for division.
Mr Standish retired in 2007, living off the profits of a £28million sheep farm down under, while the couple enjoyed life in 18-bedroom mansion Moundsmere Manor (pictured), set in 83 acres near the Hampshire village of Preston Candover, on the site of an original manor once owned by Henry VIII
‘The judge confused the assessment of what had happened to the title of the assets with the assignment of whether it was fair to treat them as matrimonial,’ he argued, going on to urge the court to cut the wife’s share to between £25million and £29million.
Richard Todd KC, for the wife, however argued that the wife should have got even more than she did.
‘The husband is emphatic in asserting that this case is all about him bringing the lion’s share of the capital into the marriage,’ he said.
‘He writes off his absolute gift to the wife as something of no real consequence.
‘All property has an owner. Until 1882, married women found it extremely difficult if not impossible to own property.
‘The concept that gifts made outright to a spouse are of a lesser quality than gifts made to anyone else is patrician, outmoded and – as most of the recipients are likely to be wives – unlawful discrimination.
‘Yet that is the gravamen of the husband’s case: a gift made to a spouse is fully retrievable and solely because the parties are married.
‘It is solely because of her status of wife that Mrs Standish stands to lose what was transferred to her in an unimpeached and completed gift.
‘What happened here is clear. The husband gifted his separate property to the wife. It then became her separate property to do with as she liked.
‘Thereafter, she unilaterally decided that her money should be treated as part of the equal partnership matrimonial property.’
He argued that the £80m that was the wife’s property by right and everything else apart from the sheep farm ought to be equally split, leaving each of the former spouses with £56.3million.
The hearing, at which the wife is represented by celebrity divorce lawyer Fiona Shackleton, continues.
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