Wealth managers will have been wincing last week as they read reports of the dispute between Mandy Gray and her former personal trainer Hamish Hurley.
Having persuaded the English courts that she was entitled to half of her ex-husband’s $225 million fortune, against his rigorous opposition, Ms Gray seems to have spent the greater part of it, in the few short years since, in an orgy of gratuitous and perhaps irrecoverable expenditure.
But more widely this demonstrates the lottery-like nature of the legal proceedings that this type of case creates.
The money that went on high living is gone, as is the £7 million invested in Hurley’s failed business.
However, significant assets remain in the form of land in Italy and New Zealand, investments, and supercars that alone are worth nearly £5 million.
Ms Gray would like these back and they are of a value, cumulatively, to allow her to live well, so long as she is more measured in her spending.
But will she get them? In legal proceedings here and in New Zealand, different stories are emerging as to the purpose of the expenditure and who owns the remaining assets.
It is bad enough for Ms Gray that these are to a significant extent in Mr Hurley’s name, but even deciding which country’s courts can make a decision will be tortuous and expensive. Mr Hurley has issued proceedings in New Zealand — where he lives — which is a jurisdiction where assets can be awarded to parties who have been in unmarried relationships.
Ms Gray argues that the proceedings should be heard in England, which has no such power. Just deciding which it is to be will take time.
Even once that is decided Mr Hurley is likely to say that Ms Gray gave him the assets. Perhaps she did — how else, he might ask, did the assets become registered in his name?
There is likely to be a battle royal somewhere as to what she really meant to do. One can almost guarantee that there will be no formal documentation and so success or failure will turn on recollections of conversations, texts and emails, all of which the former lovers will attempt to show meant whatever now serves their purpose. Hence the lottery metaphor.
And it will be an expensive game. Neither jurisdiction would have the authority to decide the ownership of land in Italy, and Ms Gray will need more lawyers there and anywhere else where such assets are situated.
She seems doomed to conduct legal proceedings in several parts of the world at huge cost in time and money, all with an uncertain outcome.
A horse-trade may be the only answer — with Ms Gray marking down the substantial funds that she may never recover as the cost of an expensive lesson in how not to manage the fortune that remains to her.
This article was originally published in The Times, here.