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Appeals court upholds giant divorce settlement

The ex-wife of an insurance tycoon will get 48-million pound (EUR70 million, US$94.7 million) as a divorce settlement, according to British court decision.

It is a ruling likely to be studied for guidance in other high-profile cases _ such as that of former Beatle Paul McCartney's and his second wife, Heather Mills McCartney.

The Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by businessmen John Charman, who had argued that the award set by a lower court for Beverley Charman, his wife of 29 years, was "grotesque and unfair."

Charman is a former senior deputy chairman of the Lloyd's insurance market and is now president and chief executive of the Axis Capital Holdings Ltd. based in Bermuda.

In July, Judge Paul Coleridge ordered Charman, 54, to pay a 40 million pound (EUR58.6 million US$78.9 million) lump sum to his former wife Beverley. The settlement also includes 8 million pounds (EUR11.7 million, US$15.8 million) in assets already in her name. The judge said the total amount was just under 37 percent of John Charman's assets.

The couple was married for 29 years before their divorce last year and have two adult children.

Coleridge said the Charmans had "a long marriage where the parties started with nothing," but in which John Charman eventually earned vast sums.

He said Beverley Charman "played her full part as wife and mother of two now-adult sons."

The judge said that while "fairness dictates" a 50-50 split of assets, Beverley had been "prepared to accept a 45-55 percent split to recognize what has come to be called the husband's special-stellar contribution to the generation of the wealth."

Coleridge noted that Charman appeared "genuinely bemused that the wife should regard his 20 million pound offer as anything other than reasonable, even generous."

The couple married in 1976, 11 years before he founded the Dragon Trust, which had assets of 68 million pounds (Ђ100 million, US$135 million).

Following the Sept. 11. 2001 attacks, Charman set up Axis, an insurance and reinsurance company based in Bermuda.

He moved to the British mid-Atlantic territory and separated from his wife in 2003. She sued for divorce the following year.

Charman had argued against a 50-50 split of the couple's assets, saying the Dragon Trust was set up to benefit family members and that he did not control its assets.