Glen and Nicola Briers divorced in 2002 when Mr Briers’ fashion company, Lydonford Ltd, had an annual turnover of £1 million. Now, 11 years on, the company turns over £30 million and Ms Briers is back after a 2015 judgment entitled her to £2.7 million of his £10 million fortune. Mr Briers has now gone to the Court of Appeal to challenge the “windfall” ruling.
The pair, who had three children together, married in 1984 when they were both working as teachers. In 1988, Mr Briers, 61, started a clothing business in his garage with only £81. This company, Lydonford Ltd, now comprises a ski and sportswear line as well as fashion brands such as Vision and Lambretta and has outlets across the nation.
After an 18-year marriage, the Briers split in 2002 before Lydonford Ltd became a major multi-million fashion chain. The huge sum of money generated by the company since the divorce led to a re-evaluation of their divorce settlement in 2015. The result was that Ms Briers is eligible to receive a sizeable £2.7 million chunk of her ex’s £10 million. According to the Daily Mail, Ms Briers’ barrister, Justin Warshaw QC, explained that Ms Briers’ decision to act on this judgment was motivated by a number of reasons. Namely, the discovery that Mr Briers may have had another child before their marriage, that he had a young girlfriend, her teacher’s wages had been reduced and she had recently separated from her boyfriend. In response to this, Mr Briers’ barrister, Jonathan Cohen QC, remarked that “it is not the husband’s role to act as insurer against these events, let alone to do so many years after the separation”.
After the divorce in 2002, Mr Briers gave his ex-wife £150,000 to pay off the mortgage of their £700,000 family home in the West Midlands, and the house itself. He also agreed to give Ms Briers a £10,000 salary and child maintenance payments. In court, Mr Briers said that he and his ex made a “verbal agreement” that this settlement would mean a clean break between them despite the 2015 ruling which found that Ms Briers was entitled to more. Contrary to this evidence, Ms Briers’ barrister, Justin Warshaw QC, stated that “no agreement was ever reached” and therefore Ms Briers has the right to her fair share. Mr Briers, however, told the court that the divorce judge, Mark Rogers, was wrong to count his business as “an undivided matrimonial asset” since no family money was used to support it. He also commented that Ms Briers’ involvement in the company was negligible during their marriage and the business only sky-rocketed in value after the divorce.
Taking this argument into account, Mr Warshaw drew on the legacy of the case White v White where Lord Nicholls called for monetary and non-monetary contribution to family life to be considered equal. As such, he told the court that Ms Briers deserved her fraction of Mr Briers’ wealth owing to her “huge contribution” to childcare whilst he concentrated on his business. Mr Warshaw added that a 27 percent share of assets is significantly less than the normal 50/50 split in divorce settlements. Conversely, Mr Briers sees the demand as unfair and “excessively favourable” to his ex-wife.
Mr Briers, who has offered his ex-wife an extra £562,000 to settle the claim, commented outside court that the situation is “very disappointing”. Stunned by the sudden threat to his fortune, he expressed his regret for not finalising the divorce proceedings: “I didn’t drag her to the solicitors to get the agreement signed- we’d been married for years. I didn’t think she would do anything like this years later”. In a climate where people are becoming more accustomed to similar tales of the return of the ex, let these words be a warning to us all.