Banker locked in divorce fight over £80m he gave his wife to avoid tax bill
A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE banker turned sheep farmer is locked in a divorce battle with his exwife after handing her £80 million during a failed tax-avoidance bid.
Clive Standish, former chief financial officer of UBS, married Anna Standish, now 55, in December 2005. They split in 2020, with marital assets of £132.6 million.
Mr Standish, 70, had retired from banking in 2007, and lived with his wife in an 18-bedroom mansion, Moundsmere Manor, set in 83 acres near the Hampshire village of Preston Candover.
In 2016, HMRC announced changes to the inheritance tax regime, which Mr Standish feared would see his estate exposed to a 40 per cent tax levy on his death, the Appeal Court heard yesterday.
As a result, he transferred £80 million worth of assets to his wife to be placed in an offshore trust for their two children.
But their marriage failed and Mrs Standish claimed the £80 million was hers because it had been ‘gifted’ to her.
Last December the couple clashed in the divorce courts.
‘Acquired substantial wealth’
Mr Justice Moor ruled that Mr Standish should get £87.6 million of the family wealth, with £45 million going to Mrs Standish. Now both husband and wife are fighting against that ruling in the Appeal Court.
Lawyers for Mr Standish said his wife should have received only £25 million, claiming the division was unfair because he had brought nearly all the wealth into the marriage and had never intended the £80 million to be a ‘gift’ to her.
But Mrs Standish’s lawyers want her share increased to £56.3 million, and say that giving her less would amount to ‘discrimination’.
Tim Bishop KC, for Mr Standish, said he had enjoyed ‘a very successful career in banking’ and acquired substantial wealth from cash investments, property and a large sheep farm he owns in Australia.
He told the judges that in June 2004 Mr Standish was worth £ 57.3 million, while his wife had brought ‘no significant premarital wealth’ to the marriage.
British-born Mr Standish had moved to Australia in 1976 before returning to the UK with his family in 2010.
This situation left him open to a big inheritance tax hit when prospective changes were announced in 2016, affecting anyone with a British domicile of origin returning to the UK from a country they had made their new permanent home.
The court heard Mr Standish ‘commenced a process to shield his property’ from the inheritance tax hit by transferring his wife’s assets worth £80 million.
‘The husband made the transfers in March 2017, but the wife failed to transfer the assets into a trust by the time the marriage ran into problems in 2019 and then broke down finally in 2020,’ the barrister said.
But Richard Todd KC, for Mrs Standish, argued that she should have received even more than she did.
‘The husband is emphatic in asserting that this case is all about him bringing the lion’s share of the capital into the marriage,’ he said. ‘ He writes off his absolute gift to the wife as something of no real consequence.’
He added: ‘ The concept that gifts made outright to a spouse are of a lesser quality than gifts made to anyone else is patrician, outmoded and — as most of the recipients are likely to be wives — unlawful discrimination.’
He argued that the £80 million that was the wife’s property by right and everything else apart from the sheep farm should be split equally, leaving each of the Standishes with £56.3 million.
The hearing, at which Mrs Standish is being represented by celebrity divorce lawyer Fiona Shackleton, continues.