|Robson Rhodes Founder's Son Wins Divorce Payout|
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The son of one of accountancy's founding fathers has won a court battle to lower his divorce payout – but it might not be enough to save his £14m landed estate for his own children.
The Hon Erik Robson inherited magnificent Kiddington Hall and its estate near Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire, from his father, Sir Laurence Robson, who founded Robson Rhodes & Co, which became one of the country's leading firms.
The estate, complete with gardens designed by Capability Brown and its own village, was once worth £42m, but the land has already been sold for £23.25m and the house itself, built in 1673, is now under offer at £14.5m.
Yesterday top family judge, Lord Justice Ward, cut 66-year-old's Erik Robson's divorce payout to his horse mad 54-year-old ex-wife Chloe to £7m, saying that represented "one half of the carcass of the golden goose that exemplified their way of life".
The couple had two children by their 25-year marriage and Mr. Robson still owns a 17th century castle in the Scottish highlands - bought for him by his father when he was 19 years old - but is in debt to the bank for more than £5m, the court heard.
He had at first followed his father into his accountancy practice but, within five years of his marriage, "gave it up to concentrate on managing the estate, though some might say to live a life of leisure", the judge observed.
Living off Robson's inherited wealth, the couple "focused on their own enjoyment and sporting passions rather than on preserving the inheritance for their children and future generations".
Mr. Robson's barrister, Tim Amos QC, attacked the £8m award to his ex-wife, who devotes much of her time to equestrianism and competes in dressage at high level, as an "unfair windfall".
Although he accepted that Mr. Robson had overspent during the marriage, both he and his wife had lived beyond their means and Amos described her as a "co-wastrel".
When making the original award to Mrs. Robson, Mr. Justice Charles had made "trenchant criticisms" of her ex-husband's "unreliability and irresponsibility" in the management of his inheritance.
The judge had described Robson as "a pathetic and a hopeless custodian of Kiddington", but the barrister argued he had gone too far in his criticisms and had made it clear that he "didn't like" Mr. Robson.
However, Lord Justice Ward, sitting with Lord Justice Hughes and Lord Justice Patten, said there was "no substance" in that complaint. Mr. Robson was dealt with fairly and the judge was entitled to comment on what his own barrister described as his "shenanigans".
The court heard Mr. Robson is having "emotional difficulties" at the prospect of having to sell Kiddington Hall and his legal team asked for the lump sum to be replaced by periodical payments, to give him a chance of hanging onto to the estate.
However, Lord Justice Ward said Robson's past history of extravagant spending meant a "clean break" divorce by payment of a lump sum was the right option.
But he went on to reduce the total payout to Mrs. Robson from £8m to £7m after ruling that the reduced sum would still leave her "well provided for".
He concluded: "It is pure coincidence - and faintly ironic - that, if the proceeds of sale of the Hall... are about £14m, then, by a quirk of arithmetic, a lump sum of £7m represents one half of the carcass of the golden goose that exemplified their way of life".
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Published on our website on Nov.11, 2010