November 27, 2014 / 4:38 PM / 3 years ago

Hedge fund couple agree Britain's most expensive divorce

5 Min Read

LONDON (Reuters) - Billionaire hedge fund manager Chris Hohn has been ordered to pay his estranged wife Jamie Cooper-Hohn 337 million pounds ($530 million) in the largest divorce settlement in British legal history.

The size of the settlement was detailed in a draft judgment, a legal source said on Thursday, cautioning that there could be last-minute changes ahead of final publication on Dec. 12.

The former couple, whose Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) is one of the top private charities in the world, have been feuding over a family fortune judges say tops $1.3 billion.

American-born Cooper-Hohn, 49, had sought half the assets. But 48-year-old Hohn, who runs his TCI hedge fund, offered a quarter, arguing that he had made a special contribution to their wealth during their 17-year marriage. They have four children, including triplets.

Their break-up has cast a cloud over CIFF, which has donated hundreds of millions of pounds to helping poor and vulnerable children in the developing world. A judge said he had been told it was in limbo because of the litigation.

Hohn had accused his estranged wife of criminal and fiduciary wrongdoing in the handling of the fund -- allegations she has rejected. During court proceedings, she said Hohn was controlling and aggressive and that she felt "constantly threatened" over how she ran CIFF since the marriage collapsed.

Thursday's settlement is eclipsed by the $4.5 billion Russian fertilizer tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev has been told by a Swiss court to hand his estranged wife Elena and oilman Harold Hamm has been told to pay around $1.0 billion to his ex-wife Sue Ann in the United States.

But Britain, home to an increasing number of foreign and home grown billionaires, has a reputation as the divorce capital of Europe for the rich and famous.

London's previous largest payout is an estimated 100 to 200 million pounds awarded to Galina Besharova by Boris Berezovsky, a Russian oligarch found dead last year.

Capital Giving

Hohn, the British son of a Jamaican car mechanic, met Cooper-Hohn at Harvard Business School and they married in 1995. Both had an interest in charity and in 2004, Hohn set up a hedge fund that would channel some of its fees and profits into a charity to help children mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and India.

Hohn, described as a "very, very intense person" by a former investor, says he was motivated by a stint working in the Philippines in his 20s, when he saw children scavenging for food on a rubbish dump. Cooper-Hohn had charity experience and wanted to dedicate herself to philanthropy.

CIFF is now a $4 billion foundation which seeks to make an impact in areas such as child survival, nutrition, education and climate change.

"See your philanthropy not as a gift but as an investment," Cooper-Hohn told a United Nations conference in 2013.

The fund has been lauded by the rich and powerful, including former U.S. president Bill Clinton whose own foundation receives CIFF funds. Earlier this year, Hohn was knighted for his philanthropic and development work.

Cooper-Hohn, who vacated CIFF's CEO seat last year to become non-executive chairman, hosted a Nutrition for Growth summit with the British and Brazilian governments in 2013, at which she committed another $700 million to improve childhood nutrition.

In October, the charity raised to $20 million its funding to help combat Ebola in west Africa.

Until 2012, CIFF was partly funded on a contractual basis by profits generated from Hohn's hedge fund TCI. CIFF says its $4 billion investment fund, used to fund its charitable activities, is now large enough to allow the foundation to be self-funding.

TCI still has a role to play, however. According to CIFF's last trustees' report, TCI remains the investment manager that preserves those assets and generates income and capital growth.

Hohn, who called himself an "unbelievable money maker" in court, has compared himself with investors Warren Buffett, George Soros and Carl Icahn. He generated about $5.7 billion in his working life, including $4.3 billion for the charity, according to Cooper-Hohn's lawyer.

Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Giles Elgood

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