Friday 18 October 2019

'Disaster' marriage of Tory donor and baroness ends after judge makes 'curtain call' on mansion

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Brian Farmer

A rich British businessman and his wealthy Austrian ex-wife have drawn divorce court hostilities to a close - after a judge ruled on the ownership of curtains.

Conservative Party donor Sir Andrew Cook and interior designer Baroness Angelika Hirsch-Stronstorff had begun fighting at a trial in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

But the judge overseeing the trial urged them to settle.

Mr Justice Holman was told the pair had run up £1m (€1.11m) in lawyers' bills while arguing over less than £2m.

Evidence showed that Mr Cook - chairman of William Cook, a firm based in Sheffield which produces components for the rail, energy and defence industries - was worth about £25m and Baroness Hirsch-Stronstorff about £4m, the judge said.

He had been told that no-one was arguing that their combined wealth should be shared.

Lawyers representing Baroness Hirsch-Stronstorff said she wanted to walk away with £2.8m.

Mr Cook - who was treasurer of the Conservative In campaign, which sought to keep the UK in the European Union at the 2016 referendum - had made an initial offer of £1m and then increased it to £2m.

Lawyers have now told the judge that Mr Cook and Baroness Hirsch-Stronstorff have agreed an out-of-court settlement.

But the judge heard that they could not agree on who owned the curtains in a house they had shared in London.

Lawyers said that, under the agreement, Sir Andrew was keeping the house and wanted the curtains to remain.

But Baroness Hirsch-Stronstorff was keeping the contents and said the curtains belonged to her.

Mr Justice Holman ruled that the curtains should stay.

But the judge said if Sir Andrew sold them, as part of a house sale, in the next five years he must split the money with his ex-wife.

Mr Justice Holman wished Sir Andrew and Baroness Hirsch-Stronstorff well and said he was glad their court fight was over.

He added that their marriage had been a "disaster".

PA Media

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