The former wife of billionaire, co-owner and president of Norilsk Nickel Vladimir Potanin, Natalia filed a lawsuit against her ex-husband in a British court for 5.8 billion British pounds ($ 6.3 billion), The Telegraph and The Times write.
Former spouses have been divorced for over six years. The initiator of the gap was the businessman himself. At the end of 2013, he filed for divorce, in February 2014 the magistrate's court of the Presnensky district of Moscow granted him.
First, Potanina tried in Russian and then in Cypriot courts to get from her ex-husband half of his share in Norilsk Nickel. At that time, the billionaire controlled a little more than 30% of the company. Norilsk Nickel regularly published this information in quarterly reports.
The Russian court found that the shares of Norilsk Nickel did not belong to Potanin, and divided between the ex-spouses only real estate and financial assets. In parallel with the lawsuit, the shareholder of Norilsk Nickel changed the ownership structure, and the company itself ceased to disclose in reports that Potanin was its ultimate beneficiary. A Cyprus court ruled in 2015 that a dispute between former spouses should be considered in Russia.
The Telegraph writes that Potanina hired royal lawyer Charles Howard to represent her in court, while Potanin hired lawyer Fiona Shackleton. In what particular court Potanin filed a lawsuit, the publication does not indicate. Howard practices at 1KBW Law Firm, and Shackleton at Payne Hicks Beach. The representative was the first to decline comments; questions sent to Payne Hicks Beach have not yet been answered.
Potanina explained to The Times that she has been a UK resident since 2016 and has not had the opportunity for fair justice in Russia, as her former husband is close to President Vladimir Putin, “they are the so-called hockey buddies,” she said.
The representative of Potanina declined to comment further. Representatives of Norilsk Nickel and Interros also acted.
“The history of the spouses' divorce proceedings will divide the process in British jurisdiction into two parts: the jurisdiction of the dispute to the High Court of London, and [if yes] what assets should be divided between the spouses,” says Dmitry Gorbunov, partner at Rustam Kurmaev & Partners. He notes that the failure of the plaintiff in Russian courts can be a dangerous moment in determining the jurisdiction of the dispute.
“The dispute between the former spouses can last quite a long time, but the most interesting question will arise later - how to execute the English decision [in case of victory],” says Elmira Kondratieva, Forward Legal attorney.
Potanin now owns 34.57% of Norilsk Nickel through Bonico Holdings Co. Limited and Whiteleave Holdings registered in Cyprus.
“With the recognition of court decisions abroad, there will most likely be no questions,” Kondratyev said. - In Russia, difficulties will surely arise: we with England do not have an agreement on the recognition of decisions, but we can try to recognize the English decision on the basis of the principle of reciprocity. Potanin’s lawyers will probably object to this. ” She believes that if the subjects of the Russian and English lawsuits intersect, this can indeed become an obstacle to the recognition and enforcement of the English decision. ”
Who exactly will benefit from this process are English lawyers who traditionally work at high hourly rates, ironically Kondratyev.