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In the immortal words of Ivana Trump: “Ladies, you have to be strong and independent. And remember – don’t get mad, get everything!”
And when it comes to big money marital break-ups, those words, first uttered via Trump’s cameo in the 1996 movie The First Wives Club, have never rung truer.
Donald and Ivana Trump in 2014.Credit: Getty Images
The fall-out from high-profile splits, such as the multibillion-dollar bust up of Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s 31-year marriage, always fascinates.
Some 10 days since they confirmed their long-rumoured split via a public statement and a team of spin doctors, the Forrests have so far managed a textbook case in damage mitigation in a situation that all too often has caused untold harm to countless former couples.
Throw in a vast fortune and such marriage breakdowns frequently end up in protracted, bitter litigation, the pain only compounded by the inevitable media coverage. When Donald and Ivana Trump divorced in 1990, their story ran on the front page of New York’s tabloids for 11 days straight.
For the Trumps, there’s no such thing as bad press. Not so much for the Forrests.
The Forrests stressed that their decision to separate would have no impact on the mining business or their charitable foundation.Credit: Jessic Wyld
Ivana walked away from the marriage with around $US25 million as per their prenuptial agreement, a pittance next to the $14.6 billion Nicola Forrest has reportedly exited her marriage with, following a series of asset transfers in recent months. She now ranks as the eighth-richest person in Australia and one of the independently wealthiest women in the world.
The Forrests have publicly reaffirmed their “friendship” and indicated they do not plan to divorce, nor does their split alter the course of either their business or philanthropic endeavours, in which they remain intrinsically enmeshed, having both signed to their friends’ Bill and Melinda Gates’ Giving Pledge to give away their fortune to charity.
Neither party has offered any detail on why, after 31 years and three children, they have called it quits. Until only recently the Forrests had presented themselves as a steadfast, unified married couple.
Manhattan’s most infamous divorce attorney, Robert S Cohen, was the lawyer who represented Ivana Trump during her divorce, and more recently handled Melinda Gates’ divorce from Microsoft billionaire Bill in 2021. The Gates’ and Forrests’ respective separations have been presented to the world in a remarkably similar fashion, even down to the wording of their public statements.
In more unified times: Bill and Melinda Gates.Credit: New York Times
Cohen is a man all too familiar with the legal, emotional and reputational intricacies of a billionaire divorce.
In 2021 he told the US-based Business Insider he always asked potential new clients about sex — namely, whether they were still having it, as well as how they made their money and why their marriage was failing.
“I find that if people are still able to be happily married and be intimate, I think there’s something to save,” Cohen said.
Over his 60-year career, Cohen has been called a “killer”, a “Doberman”, and “your worst nightmare”.
“The wealth that exists in the United States is staggering. Even to me,” Cohen said. “Remember: For the person who doesn’t have the money, it’s likely to be the largest business deal that they’ll ever do in their life.”
But this is not a peculiarly American problem. Two years ago, the Herald reported wealthy Sydneysiders were spending up to $6 million on lawyers to wring out favourable property settlements in their divorce proceedings.
One Sydney woman who split up from her husband – a magnate of his profession and worth around $200 million – said she had pawned her jewellery, sold paintings off the walls of her house and borrowed money from her parents to afford her $6 million in legal fees over four years.
In January, reports emerged of one of Australia’s richest men being pursued for a $1.7 billion settlement through the Family Court of Australia, which legally prevents either party to the case from being identified.
While in 2019 what was billed as “Australia’s longest, messiest and most expensive divorce” finally came to an end, bringing to a close a 14-year saga involved more than 700 documents, a “vast number” of hearings, 61 separate judgments, 16 law firms and more than $40 million in legal fees.
And just yesterday we saw reports that tech entrepreneur billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and fashion designer wife Annie had separated more than a month ago after 13 years of marriage.
While no one wants to rain anything but confetti on the idea of marriage, it is sobering to read the Australian Institute of Family Studies research revealing the total number of divorces granted in 2021 was 56,244, the highest number of divorces recorded since 1976, which coincidentally was the same year a young Czech model named Ivana Zelníčková caught the eye of Donald Trump.
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