A billionaire forced to pay £337million to his wife in Britain’s biggest ever divorce payout is back in the High Court again with his ex-spouse over the children’s charity they set up.
Sir Chris Hohn – who donated £200,000 to climate change protest group Extinction Rebellion – and Jamie Cooper are in a dispute over the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation they founded together in 2002.
The row centres on whether the foundation, which has assets of more than £3billion, should make a grant of more than £270million to a similar charity, Big Win Philanthropy, set up by Ms Cooper after the divorce.
Five Supreme Court justices began analysing the case at a Supreme Court hearing in London today after Ms Cooper asked judges to overturn a previous Court of Appeal ruling.
In 2017 a High Court judge ordered a third member of the foundation, Marko Lehtimaki, to approve the grant, after Sir Chris and Ms Cooper recused themselves from voting on the plans. But in 2018 that decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal.
Sir Christopher Hohn (pictured) and ex Jamie Cooper are in a dispute over the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation they founded together in 2002
Sir Hohn and Ms Cooper divorced in 2014 which saw the billionaire ordered to hand about a third of a £1billion fortune – £337 million – to his wife after a trial in the Family Division of the High Court.
After their divorce in 2014 it made their £3billion charitable foundation difficult to manage together and the warring former couple are now involved in the new extraordinary legal row after Ms Cooper set up the charity.
Justices were told that Sir Chris and Ms Cooper set up the foundation nearly 20 years ago in a bid to improve the lives of children in developing countries.
Sir Chris and Ms Cooper had agreed that, in exchange for the grant to Big Win Philanthropy, she would resign as a member and trustee of the foundation.
But both had recused themselves from voting on the proposal.
Jamie Cooper (pictured at a previous court hearing) won £337million from her former husband in a divorce battle, Britain’s biggest ever payout
Justices have been asked to decide whether a judge can tell the third foundation member, Mr Lehtimaki, how to vote.
A judge who initially analysed the dispute in the High Court in London decided that the grant would be in the foundation’s best interests and ordered Dr Lehtimaki to vote to approve it.
But Dr Lehtimaki, backed by Sir Chris, mounted a successful challenge to that decision.
Court of Appeal judges ruled after a hearing in London that a judge could not direct Dr Lehtimaki ‘on how he should exercise his powers’.
Ms Cooper has now asked Supreme Court justices to overturn the ruling by the Court of Appeal judges.
Sir Chris Hohn has been ranked in the top ten of the world’s highest earning hedge fund managers and he set up The Children’s Investment Fund Management, or TCI, in 2003.
He was ranked as the 125th-richest person in the UK with a £1.2bn personal fortune on this year’s Sunday Times Rich List.
He was caught up in the row over the privatisation of Royal Mail after it emerged TCI made a huge profit buying and then selling shares for a profit – fanning the flames in the row over whether the Government had sold the company too cheaply.
The couple – who had homes in London, the United States and the West Indies – had fought over assets totalling more than £700million at the High Court before a judge finally settled on the staggering sum.
The couple’s long-running divorce case bordered on farce at times with Sir Chris accusing his ex-wife of seeking maintenance payments for a dog that never existed.
They married in Washington DC in 1995 and had four children, including triplets, before divorcing in April 2013.
The hearing is due to end on Wednesday and justices are expected to deliver a ruling later in the year.
In October it emerged that through his charity The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and through his own personal wealth, he donated £200,000 after claiming there was an ‘urgent need’ for people to wake up to climate change.
Around £50,000 of the donation came from his own pocket, while the rest came from his charity.
He said: ‘I recently gave them £50,000 because humanity is aggressively destroying the world with climate change and there is an urgent need for us all to wake up to this fact.’