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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Why Sir Paul's 'genius' could save him millions
The Magazine answers...

Sir Paul and Lady McCartney
Sir Paul is considered a 'genius'
With Sir Paul McCartney separating from his wife, Heather, all eyes are now on the potential divorce settlement. But one expert says the former Beatle's "genius" could vastly reduce the sum he has to pay out. Why?

High Court judges' reputation for being aloof and out of touch with the real world used to be typified by the test of whether or not they had heard of the Beatles.

If the potential divorce settlement between Sir Paul McCartney and his now estranged wife, Heather, ever reaches court, the musician had perhaps better hope the sitting judge is aware of that particular popular beat combo.

As one half of the chief song-writing team behind the Beatles - the most successful pop group ever - Sir Paul has amassed an estimated fortune of 825m. The artist could now be liable to hand over a huge chunk of his wealth in any divorce settlement.

Although the couple have only separated - and not petitioned for divorce - speculation is already rife.

Question mark
A feature to the BBC News Magazine - aiming to answer some of the questions behind the headlines

Many of Thursday's newspapers suggest Lady McCartney could receive about 200m. The Sun quotes a family law expert saying she may walk away with 400m - about half her husband's wealth - although the Daily Mirror forecasts a "50m quickie divorce".

When it comes to dividing up assets in a divorce, each case is taken on its merits. But the principle of equality - a 50/50 share - in long marriages was established in 2002 (coincidentally, the year Sir Paul re-married).

Divorce lawyer Alan Kaufman strongly doubts the principle would apply in this case because the marriage has been relatively short (four years) and Sir Paul's assets were built up beforehand.

The question of short marriages will arise next week with a House of Lords judgement on the 20m divorce involving City fund manager Alan Miller.

Paul McCartney
Sir Paul's wealth is put at 825m
Mr Miller is contesting his ex-wife's claim for a quarter of his fortune after this marriage of two years and nine months broke down.

Mr Kaufman expects Melissa Miller to retain the 5m awarded to her in the case, which would clear the way for an equivalent 200m settlement for Lady McCartney.

But intriguingly, Sir Paul's widely acknowledged creative genius may form the crux of any further legal argument, says Mr Kaufman.

"In the big money cases, especially where there are long marriages, the courts have upheld that instead of going 50/50, if there was a special contribution from one half and that was built up by a uniquely creative element, or genius, the other half would get less than 50%."

The principle was recently upheld in the case of advertising big shot Sir Martin Sorrell, who divorced after almost 33 years of marriage.

Mr Kaufman expects Lady McCartney to settle for 50m to 100m
But he warns vast majority of divorce settlements never reach court
Last year, Mr Sorrell, who heads WPP, one of the world's biggest communications companies, found himself in the High Court hoping to block his ex-wife Sandra's claim for 50% of the family's wealth.

In the end, Ms Sorrell walked away with only 40% after the judge noted the "true explanation" for her husband's wealth was his "spark or force or seed of genius, call it what one will".

To Mr Kaufman, Sir Paul "has a very special position and his lawyers will be arguing very, very strongly he should be treated differently from most other husbands because here we have a man who incredibly has built up massive wealth because frankly he is a genius".

So what is "genius"?

"It's always going to be a big argument," says Mr Kaufman. "When you see it, you know it."

  • Reports about Sir Paul McCartney's 825m wealth have centred on the fact he is, according to the Sunday Times, Britain's second richest "music millionaire", ahead of Lord Lloyd Webber (700m), Sir Cameron Mackintosh (400m) and Simon Fuller (300m) in the top five. But few will have heard of the man at the top of the list - Clive Calder, worth an estimated 1.3bn.

    Mr Calder is the South African-born founder of the independent label Zomba Records, which claimed Billy Ocean as its first big UK act. He is credited with discovering Britney Spears after she auditioned at his studios. In 2002 he sold Zomba for $1.8bn to German-based Bertelsmann.

    Add your comments on this story, using the form below. She should only be entitled to half the wealth created during the 4 years she was 'married' to Paul. For the child, I sure will Paul will be very generous and create a trust fund etc and pay for all the big expenses of bringing up their child.
    Susan Bird, Sarasota, Florida, USA

    I just can't imagine this divorce is going to become nasty. Although I have heard one rumour that Paul is calling for the separation because of Heather's nagging, I feel that they will separate with a peaceful negotiation, and do what is right in terms of splitting their wealth.
    Heather, Wolverhampton

    I'm a genius - it's just nobody has discovered me yet!

    In the event of her having custody of their child then she should be granted an amount for the child. However she should receive nothing for herself - she is perfectly capable of earning and, as his fortune was amassed in respect of work done outside of their marriage (as in before she was even born), she has no right whatsoever to his money as she in no way contributed to his earning it.
    Caroline, London

    I think that it very sad that they are splitting up. However, I do not think that Paul ever got over the death of his first wife Linda. As regards to the money, I feel that it should be relative to the number of years they were married. Also, he does have a child but I am sure that Paul would make sure that it was well provided for.
    Jim Balmer, Hillsborough NC USA

    I don't think Macca is a genius - Mozart was a genius. What he is is one of the greatest composers of popular song of the 20th century, who wrote the glorious soundtrack to my, and millions of others, lives. I'm just sad on a personal level for him and his young child. Perhaps he married to quickly after Linda. I hope he finds happiness eventually. I suppose, after all - money 'cant buy you love'.
    david schulten, Ljubljana, Slovenia

    If the McCarntneys are intent on saying that Ms Mills never married him for the money, then why can't she just walk out of the marriage, only taking the money she brought into the marriage. I'm sure Paul will may decent maintenance for their daughter, so what does else does Heather Mills need.
    Pat Martin, Sheffield

    Very sorry but not really surprised to hear about the split. That said, they deserve some space (fat chance) as both Sir Paul and Heather, despite their enviable lifestyles, have had more than their fair share of tragedy.
    Graeme Egerton, Isle of Wight

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