March 16, 2008 / 4:30 PM / 10 years ago

Paul McCartney and Heather Mills divorce near end

<p>Sir Paul McCartney leaves the High Court in London February 15, 2008. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez</p>

LONDON (Reuters) - Paul McCartney learns on Monday just how much of his Beatles fortune will go to his estranged wife in a divorce settlement that could set a legal precedent about the short-lived marriages of the super-rich.

After one of the most acrimonious divorce battles in show business history, Judge Hugh Bennett is to hand out his judgment at London’s High Court but, despite much media clamoring, his final ruling could be kept confidential.

Heather Mills, 40, whose marriage to the 65-year-old McCartney lasted less than four years, sacked her lawyers and represented herself in the case against McCartney, whose fortune has been estimated at 825 million pounds ($1.6 billion).

Media estimates of what Mills might get have varied wildly from 200 million pounds down to 25 million pounds.

The judge could decide to impose a gagging clause on the warring pair.

“This is a short marriage and will set a precedent for judges,” family and divorce lawyer Vanessa Lloyd Platt told Sky News on Sunday, underlining how closely the legal profession would be reviewing the decision.

<p>Paul McCartney arrives at the High Court in London, February 14, 2008. McCartney learns on Monday just how much of his Beatles fortune will go to his estranged wife in a divorce settlement that could set a legal precedent about the short-lived marriages of the super-rich. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty</p>

She warned that the couple, whose case was heard behind closed doors with even the court windows blacked out, could face the full glare of publicity if either decides to appeal. Then the cloak of confidentiality would be lifted.

“Both sides have 21 days in which they can appeal. Then we would never hear the end of it,” Lloyd Platt said.

McCartney married Mills in 2002, four years after his first wife Linda died of breast cancer. Their daughter, Beatrice, is four. The couple blamed their split on media intrusion into their private lives.

The remorseless glare of the tabloid spotlight has certainly not faded in the most high-profile show business split since Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman broke up.

McCartney and Mills’ bitter divisions were splashed across tabloid front pages with endless Beatles-inspired headlines about “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Hard Day’s Fight.”

That was inevitable as McCartney, a founder of the world’s most famous pop group and a national icon in Beatles-mad Britain, was pitted against the outspoken Mills, target of lurid tales in the press about her colorful past.

She hit back, saying she had been driven to the brink of suicide because the media had branded her a “whore” and a “gold-digger.”

Editing by Matthew Jones.

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