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Research - Divorce - Costliest divorces in UK Britain
June 30, 2004

£50m divorce costs fcuk boss control of firm By Jenny Davey and Stefanie Marsh
French Connection’s founder faces a record payout as his marriage ends

IN MARRIAGE he built up one of Britain’s most profitable fashion empires. But in divorce, Stephen Marks, the millionaire behind the controversial French Connection brand, is likely to incur one of his greatest financial losses.

His divorce is likely to result in the largest payout in British history.

Yesterday Mr Marks, the multi-millionaire chairman and founder of French Connection, sold almost £40 million of shares in the clothing retailer to part-finance a hefty settlement thought eventually to be costing him £50 million.
The sale follows an acrimonious split from Alisa, his wife of ten years and mother of his three children.
It is understood that the share sell-off forms part of a much larger deal with his estranged wife, in which he has already bought her a new mansion in South Kensington and handed over their holiday home in the Caribbean island of St Barts.
The share sell-off was exposed after French Connection issued a statement to the Stock Exchange attempting to reassure investors that the sale had no bearing on the health of the business.
The controversial fcuk advertising campaign, devised by Trevor Beattie, has built hugely on the company’s success, although it resulted in the banning of the logos in some towns in America.
The company’s fcuk for England campaign, which was introduced in tandem with Euro 2004, has caused widespread complaints from shoppers who say that the acronym is offensive.
The company’s statement yesterday would only say that Mr Marks’s share sale had been to meet personal requirements.
It is thought that Mr Marks was forbidden from discussing the share sale after signing a strict confidentiality agreement with his wife.
Nevertheless, news of the sell-off wiped 29½p, equivalent to 6 per cent, off French Connection’s share price.
After the sale, Mr Marks will no longer have a majority stake in the company, which he founded in 1969.
Depending upon the final number of shares sold, French Connection said he would own between 41.9 per cent and 42.9 per cent of the business.
Ironically, City investment funds had been begging Mr Marks to trim his large stake in the company for months, to allow them to buy more shares.
Friends of the 58-year-old Mr Marks said that he was deeply upset by the process and the way his private life has been brought into the public eye. His time away from home working is thought to have taken a heavy toll on the marriage.
Before the split last year, Alisa, 38, a former fashion magazine editor, worked at French Connection under the title creative director. However, since her break-up with Mr Marks, the company has attempted to play down her role, insisting that it was largely an honorary title and that her job was little more than a stylist, who also organised photoshoots and dealt with advertising campaigns and mail-order catalogues.
A spokesman for the company said: Alisa left last May. She never really had a structured role at the company. Creative director was more of an honorary title.
It is understood that Ms Marks moved out of the couple’s shared £20 million home in Chelsea’s most upmarket street. The Boltons at the end of last year.
Mr Marks is thought to be still living at the Chelsea home. He also still owns a house in the Hamptons, in Long Island, New York.
Before marrying Alisa, Mr Marks had a previous long-term relationship with Nicole Farhi, the fashion designer. The couple had one child.
Mr Marks, the son of a Harrow hairdresser, began his career in fashion after giving up hope of a becoming a professional tennis player.
In his youth he once played at junior Wimbledon and recently paid to play doubles with Tim Henman on Centre Court.
He started his career as a salesman for a womenswear company, selling coats in the 1960s.
After six years Mr Marks decided to start his own label and commissioned Pierre DAlby, a Parisian designer, to come up with ideas for the clothes. He later became the inspiration for the company’s name.
Today French Connection is one of Britain’s most successful brands, but it had an inauspicious start after Mr Marks attempted to flood the market by buying 3,000 cheesecloth shirts at £1 each from a dealer in India.
The deal did not quite turn out as he planned when, after ordering half with long sleeves and half with short sleeves, the shirts arrived with one arm of each length. News of the share sale came as French Connection said that trading at its British high street shops had been weak so far this year, compared with some exceptionally strong trading over the same period last year.
Despite the poor start to the year, the company said that its wholesale business, which involves selling its clothes in advance to department stores, had more than compensated and overall it expected its performance to meet investors expectations.
The businessman in Stephen Marks may shudder at the cost of his wife leaving, as his divorce heads the rich list of expensive splits:
• Pamela and Steve Morgan: an affair cost the Jersey-based building tycoon an estimated £100 million, including an estimated £26 million stake in the company, although the settlement has never been made public.
• Abdullah Mastry and Mona al-Khatib: a British court ordered Mr Mastry to pay his former wife £26.3 million after he abducted his four children from their London home two years ago. Mr Masry, who is thought to be worth £150 million, is calling for the settlement to be overturned, arguing that he considers himself to be subject to Sharia which does not recognise divorce.
• Harry and Shan Lambert: in 2002, Ms Lambert, a plumber's daughter, won an appeal giving her an equal share of the newspaper tycoon Harry Lambert's £20 million fortune. She argued that, as a wife and mother, she had been an equal partner in his business.
• Zeta and François Graff: Greek-born actress Ms Graff was handed at least £10 million of the diamond heir's estimated £157 million estate, claiming that she was used as a promotional tool. She celebrated the settlement with a caseload of £600 bottles of vintage Cristal champagne.
• Ian and Jan Gowrie Smith: Mr Gowrie Smith, the flamboyant Australian City entrepreneur, cut one of his worst deals when he agreed to pay his former wife Jan almost £10 million and hand over the marital home in Chelsea. He also was forced to hand over the bulk of his share in the company that he created and named after the couple’s daughter, Skye.
• Terence and Caroline Conran: Ms Conran won a landmark case against her interior designer husband when she was awarded £10 million in 1996.
His case was not helped by tactless comments he made at the time. "All she did was cook a few dinners," he said, so unwittingly setting a precedent for hundreds of stay-at-home wives.

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