Friday 30 September 2016

The War of the Roses

The businessman who had an affair with his wife's best friend has lost out to a woman scorned, writes Liam Collins

Published 25/04/2015 | 02:30

Divorce
Divorce

When she walked up the aisle that Saturday, the 16th of April, 1994, 'R' must have been the happiest bride in Ireland.

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Her husband 'P' was young and ambitious, showing the sort of business acumen that within a few years would make him a multi-millionaire and give them a lavish, even extravagant, lifestyle of luxury homes here in Ireland and abroad, a lifestyle of designer clothes, big cars and expensive restaurants.

Yet 18 years later, on the 15th of November, 2012, when he told her he was leaving her and the marriage was over, it must have seemed that all those early dreams had turned to dust. But like the 'War of the Roses' it was far from over. When Mr Justice David Keane delivered his judgment in their bitterly contested judicial separation case, awarding her the family home worth €1.6m, their holiday home worth €1.7m, €18,000 a month in maintenance and half his €1.3m pension, she became the envy of almost every Irish divorcee since marriage break-up was introduced into this country.

It makes the €660 a month she collects in Child Benefit from the State look like small change, although every little helps when you have a big house, a big car, a villa in the sun, a busy social life and four children aged from eight to 15. Of course, there was his humiliating affair with her best friend, among others, along the way . . . but still, life has its little compensations. Who are 'R' and 'P' and why do we now know so much about them?

Well, we do know that shortly after their marriage she brought her young husband, then in his mid-20s, into the bank, where her uncle held a relatively senior position. The young man put forward a commercially sound business plan and with loan approval acquired 'Company A' - a business that would make them the fortune that 20 years later they fought so bitterly to divide.

He was an "extremely dynamic businessman and the moving force behind the development" of the company, and the acquisition in the years that followed of two other companies and a massive property portfolio.

His wife, who came from a 'highly regarded family' and had worked in a variety of "clerical or administrative" roles before their marriage, joined the business where she worked for the following four years.

The money was pouring in and they both "spent freely". The husband would later claim that her excessive spending was impossible to sustain as time went on. In 1999, as befitting the wife of a successful Celtic Tiger businessman, she opened her own small business to keep her occupied. But following the birth of the third of their four children in 2002, she became a full-time homemaker.

They bought a big house in its own grounds and she acted as hostess when clients were being wined and dined in their home. But she left business affairs very much to him - and oh, how he enjoyed the business and the affairs.

He would later claim that they did not have a meaningful sexual relationship since the birth of their third child, although his wife would counter that they continued having sex until September, 2012, long after she was aware of his infidelity.

In any event, he had conducted a number of extra-marital affairs and when, shortly after the birth of their fourth child, she discovered he was having an affair with one of his employees, and it had been going on for some months, he agreed to leave the family home.

But later that year, they were reconciled. It didn't last, and in May 2012 she discovered he was having another affair. This time it was even worse - to her horror, she found that his new lover was not only a close neighbour but was also her best friend "and confidante". He left home again. But in July of that year he asked her to go on holidays with him and another couple "as part of the reconciliation process", although how the couple expected to be reconciled with another couple in tow seemed odd and, predictably, it ended in disaster.

When they went out to dinner on the second evening of the holiday he chatted up the wife of a friend "for a considerable amount of time" and she was embarrassed and upset, leaving the restaurant and going back on her own to their luxury holiday home. He said her behaviour was "hysterical and unwarranted" and it ended with a massive fight in the bedroom when she slapped him twice across the face.

She told him she couldn't possibly continue to live where they did - so close to his lover and her former friend and they put the family home up for sale.

They were due to attend an auction to buy a new home on the 9th of November, but the evening before he came home and told her the marriage was over.

Despite this, they went along to the auction together, the wife believing that they were bidding on a new home for her and the children.

However, when her husband stopped bidding at €650,000 and the house was sold for €10,000 more, she was livid, and during an argument after they left the auction room she struck him again, without causing him any apparent injury.

He left home on the 15th of November and later bought himself a new house for €475,000, spending another €300,000 doing it up, money she claimed was "wasted".

Meanwhile, she wasn't stinting on the spending, with weekly outgoings of €2,197 for herself and the children.

Contending that her excessive spending was impossible to sustain, the husband's solicitors wrote to his wife on the 16th of January, 2013, addressing "certain issues" in relation to the marriage breakdown and ending with a plea for "an amicable separation" and "reasonable settlement proposals".

The following day his solicitors issued legal proceedings by way of a special summons against the wife to, as he put it "get the ball rolling".

The figures that emerged in the voluminous documentation represent both the high and the low of boom to bust Ireland. His three companies were valued at €8.5m.

He also had a property portfolio which brought their total assets to the value of €15.6m. But this included borrowings of €8.1m, leaving net assets of €7.4m.

While the husband was paying himself just shy of €300,000 salary a year during the recession, it increased dramatically to service his personal property portfolio which suffered from considerable negative equity when the property market collapsed.

He was at pains to point out that his outgoings of over €6,000 a week included trying to service these debts. He said he had mortgage repayments of €417,853, compared with €240,490 in anticipated rental income per year.

He also pleaded that there were "agreed bullet payments" and the end of interest-only loans to contend with.

However, his own forensic accountant could see no reason why he couldn't pay himself €900,000 a year on a sustainable basis.

What the judge described as litigation "that should never have been commenced" was "unnecessarily prolonged by the manner in which it was approached by the wife."

She offered no position on what settlement she would agree to until the last day of what was expected to be a four-day trial, which in fact lasted for 15 days through April, May, July and August, 2013, and was preceded by a number of legal applications, one of which lasted for three days.

Summing up, the judge said that "the commencement of this litigation by the husband was unreasonably and improperly precipitate and its subsequent duration and the costs associated with it have been significantly and unnecessarily increased by the position adopted by the wife."

She had refused to say what she wanted until the last day of the trial, 18 months after legal proceedings began, on the basis that she wanted all her husband's "assets and income" exhaustively tested in court.

After all this, Judge Keane awarded the family home to the wife, the transfer of the ownership of the holiday home to her and granted her €18,000 a month - €15,000 for herself and €3,000 for the children.

The husband did not have to give her a lump sum, he was given control of the two surviving companies in the group (a third had gone into liquidation) and he also got the property portfolio, but had to indemnify his wife against any loan repayments of guarantee obligations.

The couple were ordered to share their children's expenses, with the husband responsible for medical and dental expenses and the wife responsible for educational expenses.

Of course, the recession was tough on everyone - well almost, but it seems that there are couples like 'P.D.' and 'R.D.' who did rather better than most. And you won't even find them on the annual Rich List.

So no wonder we're all talking about them this week.

Irish Independent

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