Inside Wealth

Wife calls $33 million divorce payout ‘disgraceful’

Michelle Young, the estranged wife of property tycoon Scot Young, arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Nov. 13, 2009.
Leon Neal | AFP | Getty Images

A bitter divorce battle, which has seen billionaires from the U.K. and Russia take the stand in London and shone a light on the issue of asset concealment in international tax havens, has concluded with a £20 million ($33 million) award.

Michelle Young, who went from an international jetset lifestyle to a two-bedroom flat with her two daughters when her husband, Scot Young, was declared bankrupt, branded Friday's judgment "disgraceful." Her lawyers had argued that she should be awarded £300 million to £400 million.

She has spent seven years and £6.5 million, mostly borrowed, funding a fight to recover what she believes are up to £1 billion worth of assets stored away by her husband.

(Read more: Murdochs close to amicable divorce settlement)

Yet U.K. judge Justice Moor concluded that there was not enough evidence to conclude that Young, who has previously served six months in jail for contempt of court over his failure to disclose his assets, was concealing assets on the scale she believed.

"This case has been extraordinary even by the standards of the most bitter matrimonial breakdowns. Extremely serious allegations have been bandied around like confetti," he said.

Moor found that the property investor, who claims he lost a fortune in an ill-fated property venture, was hiding just £45 million worth of assets—and that Young's wife was entitled to £20 million of that. Young has been ordered to pay up within four weeks.

(Read more: How to avoid divorce settlement blunders)

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"This has been a desperate struggle for me and my two daughters, cast adrift seven years ago by a powerful maniac who felt he could hide his vast wealth behind his super-rich friends," Michelle Young said.

She added that she will also have to fund the recovery of the assets, a task which has already occupied teams of forensic accountants in three continents.

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The divorce hearing featured a number of big names in U.K. and international business. Scot Young had gained a reputation as a fixer to the super-rich, and his wife, who still refuses to grant him a divorce, had been given payments from some of his wealthy friends as he veered toward bankruptcy.

Philip Green, the retail billionaire who owns TopShop; Finnish businessman Poju Zabludowicz, known for his Las Vegas property assets; Russian businessman Ruslan Fomichev; and London restaurateur Richard Caring gave evidence during the trial.

Young did not respond to requests for comment.

—By CNBC's Catherine Boyle