How This Billionaire Is Fighting A $21M Divorce With African Law
When British law wasn’t working in Nigerian-born, British-based Michael Prest’s favor, he took it back to his African roots. The 50-year-old oil baron is founder of the Nigerian energy trading firm Petrodel Resources Ltd. Forbes reports he split from British wife Yasmin Prest in “an acrimonious divorce in 2008.” Last year he was ordered to pay her over $20 million in cash and assets. But Prest wasn’t giving up his money without a fight. In a court appeal, the oil baron is now asserting that Petrodel’s assets do not belong to him, but to his family–his children, siblings, nephews and nieces in Nigeria, as is mandated under the customary Itsekiri law.
Prest asserts the $13,000 used to establish the company in 1992 was provided by his late father. This means that under traditional law the company is not owned entirely by him, but by the family. He states that as the first-born son he is simply the custodian of the wealth. His case is also helped by the fact that in 2009 his younger brother went to the Nigerian High Court to secure a declaration that Petrodel Resources is a part of their late father’s estate. To make the case even more messy, Prest has a Nigerian court order which prevents him from sharing information about his company with third parties. This makes it difficult for anyone to determine the company’s actual value.
On the other side, former wife Yasmin is of course in outrage. She’s telling the court that the company is “100 percent owned and controlled” by her ex-husband. She claims he is worth hundreds and possibly millions of pounds. In a previous divorce payout she asked for about $40 million and an additional $1 million a year for her personal upkeep as well as for the four children the two have together. Prest had only wanted to give her $2.5 million and $35,000 a year for upkeep.