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Privacy and Financial Remedy Proceedings in Divorce.
Ryan Giggs, born in Cardiff and Manchester United legend has prominently been in the news with speculation about how his reputed £40 million fortune will be divided following on from the breakdown in his marriage.
The Decree Nisi in the divorce proceedings was formally pronounced on the 11th of August 2017 between Giggs and his wife Stacey. They were married in September 2007 and have two children.
Giggs is certainly one of the most high profile individuals to have recently sought Press Reporting restrictions in relation to his financial remedy proceedings in the Family Court.
The issues which the court can be required to address are;
- The Exclusion of the Press;
- Limitations on Reporting;
- Anonymization of the Judgements
Usually, financial remedy proceedings are heard in private.
An exception however to that rule is that under certain circumstances, a representative of news gathering or media may be permitted to attend financial remedy hearings.
However, the court has a discretion to exclude the press where it is satisfied that;
- It is necessary either in the interest of a child
- It is necessary in the interests of protecting a person involved in the case
- Where it is necessary for the orderly conduct of the proceedings
- Justice would be impeded or prejudiced
Judge Nicholas Mostyn commented that “the privacy side of the scale starts with heavy weights upon it”. Parties have to provide full and frank disclosure and disclose every aspect of their financial position.
Judge Mostyn also explained “the strong starting point is that financial remedy proceedings are held in private. They are quintessentially private business.”
There have however been divorces of celebrities where, the financial facts have been placed in the public domain. The case of Paul McCartney was a notable one.
In the McCartney case, due to stated misconception in public, the judge considered it appropriate to permit publication of the correct facts. Also, there have been cases where bad conduct of one of the parties has meant they have forfeited their right of privacy.
Once the media do become involved then clearly, they will report as much information as they possibly can and indeed, they will also feature any notable events which take place during the hearing.
The conduct of Paul McCartney’s wife Heather Mills drenching water over Sir Paul’s solicitor, by way of emptying a water jug over her head, was a famously disclosed incident in that case.
The fact that the solicitor involved was Fiona Shackleton who had earlier acted on behalf of Prince Charles in his divorce, only made the degree of fortitude she clearly displayed in dealing with this incident more impressive.
Meanwhile, in the Giggs case it was decided by Mr Justice Cobb that, reporters should be able to attend hearings but not members of the public. It was also decided that, strict limits should be placed on what the journalists were allowed to report.
It is meanwhile understood that Ryan Giggs had initially wanted journalists excluded from all hearings but, later changed his mind.
Meanwhile, the ongoing family law proceedings concerning Ryan Giggs also hold other issues of particular significance.
The “Genius Manoeuvre”
It has been widely reported in the media that, Mr Giggs will try the controversial “Genius Manoeuvre” in his divorce battle against his estranged wife Stacey.
Ryan Giggs would need to follow in the footsteps of a bin liner entrepreneur and convince a divorce hearing of something that, most Manchester United fans probably already take for granted, that he is a genius.
Giggs would also need to argue in a High Court that he should be awarded more than half of the £40 million fortune he shares with his wife because of his “special or stellar contribution” to their marital millions.
If the 43 year old’s legal team can convince a Judge that this contribution possess the spark of genius then he could prevail, under a precedent set by the man who earned his fortune from introducing black plastic bin liners to the UK.
The High Court has heard that Giggs will call witnesses to support his claim at any forthcoming trial.
It is understood that Mr Justice Cobb, presiding over an earlier High Court hearing, confirmed Mrs Giggs would have leave to call witnesses to reply. However it was further reported that no witnesses were formerly identified by her legal team at that stage.
It is perhaps difficult to imagine who, might be persuaded to come forward to challenge evidence that Ryan Giggs was a footballing genius, although an expert/forensic footballing pundit could perhaps be contemplated.
Whereas of course, there must be an argument that George Best or indeed Christiano Ronaldo showed more footballing genius at Manchester United, George Best was directly attributed with commenting that, Giggs and Ronaldo were the two successors of whom he was the most proud, when they were likened to him.
Recent “Purported” Genius Cases
In the last couple of months, two other multi-millionaire husbands namely an American Banker Randy Work (“a US tycoon”) and Laura Ashleigh Chairman Khoo Kay Peng have failed to have their genius recognised by the court. Work 49 was forced to pay £72 million to his ex-wife whilst 78 year old Khoo was required to settle for £64 million.
Randy Work’s legal team explained that he was a financial “genius” and argued it was grossly unfair that his wife should walk away with an equal share of the money he earned at Loan Star, a private equity company.
His financial input into the marriage was so “wholly exceptional” that he deserved “special treatment” and his ex-wife should get only 39% of the marital wealth.
Mr Justice Holman ruled the concept of genius could not be applied to Mr Work and his wife of almost 20 years should receive half his fortune. He also went onto comment “I personally find that it is a difficult and perhaps unhelpful word in this context to use genius. To my mind the word “genius” tends to be overused and is properly reserved for Leonardo Da Vinci, Mozart, Einstein and others like them”.
Returning to the presently beleaguered Mr Giggs, no doubt his lawyers can point out that, he remains the most decorated player in English football who, in his time at Manchester United won 34 trophies including thirteen premier league titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions League Trophies, one European Supercup, one Intercontinental cup, one FIFA World Cup and indeed nine Charity/Community shields.
In addition, he can also boast, the most premier league appearances of any player in the premier league and indeed, is the only player to play in each of the first 22 seasons of the premier league as well as being the only player to score in each of the first twenty one seasons. In addition, he was appointed an OBE in the Queen’s 2007 birthday honours list for his services to football.
The precedent that Giggs is relying on was set in 2001 when the Court of Appeal judges ruled that Michael Cowan could keep 62% of the £12 million bin liner fortune he shared with his wife because “his contribution, in terms of entrepreneurial flare, inventiveness and hard work, was truly exceptional”.
In Cowan’s case, his legal team did not stint on claiming the word “genius” applied to him. Speaking at a Court of Appeal hearing in 2001, Cowan’s lawyer compared his client to “a popular musician who achieves worldwide success, or a novelist with international best sellers”. Martin Pointer QC added “there are people who have the spark of genius, the midas touch, and Mr Cowan falls into that category. He was the man who introduced bin liners to this country. He realised his full potential”
Who is a Contemporary Sporting Genius ?
Should the case between Ryan and Stacey Giggs culminate in a contested final hearing in relation to Ancillary Relief, which financial issues are termed in divorce, then the court might potentially be called to make a finding concerning contemporary sporting genius, and/or the role of sporting genius in terms of generating “stellar contributions” and indeed, who, if anyone, actually possesses it.
Roger Federer and Usain Bolt might be popular choices amongst the public to lay claim to be a sporting genius as indeed, might Lionel Messi from the world of football. We will all have our favourites and usually it would be a subjective choice.
A formal legal definition would though surely need to include some form of weighting between each sporting discipline and, would presumably encompass a mechanism for actually measuring the degree of special ability or indeed genius, actually possessed.
Following on from pronouncement of Decree Nisi on Friday, the solicitor for Stacey Giggs formally commented “Mrs Giggs primary focus has always been and will continue to be the welfare of her family. Her only interest is in bringing these events to a swift and amicable conclusion so that she and her family can move on.”
Of course, it is to be hoped that following on from pronouncement of Decree Nisi that, the couple will negotiate an agreed financial settlement which of course, we always endorse at Sinclairslaw and, will be able to avoid the increasing cost and indeed considerable distress of these legal proceedings further escalating.
However, on the positive basis that, an agreement and indeed subsequent settlement can be reached between Mr and Mrs Giggs then, perhaps the definition of sporting genius will not need to be formally legally defined just quite yet.
If you require advice or assistance in relation to any financial issue on breakdown of marriage, then contact our Jane Williams for an initial Consultation on 02920388398 in our newly opened suite of offices situate in Churchill Way, Cardiff.
Jane is one of our two Expert Accredited Solicitors and is a member of both the Law Society Panel and Expert Family Law Accredited Panel. She is also a Member of Resolution and practising Mediator.
Alternatively speak to another of our highly experienced and qualified Family law Solicitors based either in our Penarth or London offices.