Research - Divorce - Costliest divorces in UK Britain
£50m divorce costs fcuk boss control of
firm By Jenny Davey and Stefanie Marsh
French Connection’s founder faces a record payout as
his marriage ends
IN MARRIAGE he built up one of Britain’s
most profitable fashion empires. But in divorce, Stephen Marks,
the millionaire behind the controversial French Connection
brand, is likely to incur one of his greatest financial losses.
His divorce is likely to result in the largest
payout in British history.
Yesterday Mr Marks, the multi-millionaire chairman
and founder of French Connection, sold almost £40 million
of shares in the clothing retailer to part-finance a hefty
settlement thought eventually to be costing him £50
The sale follows an acrimonious split from Alisa, his wife
of ten years and mother of his three children.
It is understood that the share sell-off forms part of a much
larger deal with his estranged wife, in which he has already
bought her a new mansion in South Kensington and handed over
their holiday home in the Caribbean island of St Barts.
The share sell-off was exposed after French Connection issued
a statement to the Stock Exchange attempting to reassure investors
that the sale had no bearing on the health of the business.
The controversial fcuk advertising campaign, devised by Trevor
Beattie, has built hugely on the company’s success,
although it resulted in the banning of the logos in some towns
The company’s fcuk for England campaign, which was introduced
in tandem with Euro 2004, has caused widespread complaints
from shoppers who say that the acronym is offensive.
The company’s statement yesterday would only say that
Mr Marks’s share sale had been to meet personal requirements.
It is thought that Mr Marks was forbidden from discussing
the share sale after signing a strict confidentiality agreement
with his wife.
Nevertheless, news of the sell-off wiped 29½p, equivalent
to 6 per cent, off French Connection’s share price.
After the sale, Mr Marks will no longer have a majority stake
in the company, which he founded in 1969.
Depending upon the final number of shares sold, French Connection
said he would own between 41.9 per cent and 42.9 per cent
of the business.
Ironically, City investment funds had been begging Mr Marks
to trim his large stake in the company for months, to allow
them to buy more shares.
Friends of the 58-year-old Mr Marks said that he was deeply
upset by the process and the way his private life has been
brought into the public eye. His time away from home working
is thought to have taken a heavy toll on the marriage.
Before the split last year, Alisa, 38, a former fashion magazine
editor, worked at French Connection under the title creative
director. However, since her break-up with Mr Marks, the company
has attempted to play down her role, insisting that it was
largely an honorary title and that her job was little more
than a stylist, who also organised photoshoots and dealt with
advertising campaigns and mail-order catalogues.
A spokesman for the company said: Alisa left last May. She
never really had a structured role at the company. Creative
director was more of an honorary title.
It is understood that Ms Marks moved out of the couple’s
shared £20 million home in Chelsea’s most upmarket
street. The Boltons at the end of last year.
Mr Marks is thought to be still living at the Chelsea home.
He also still owns a house in the Hamptons, in Long Island,
Before marrying Alisa, Mr Marks had a previous long-term relationship
with Nicole Farhi, the fashion designer. The couple had one
Mr Marks, the son of a Harrow hairdresser, began his career
in fashion after giving up hope of a becoming a professional
In his youth he once played at junior Wimbledon and recently
paid to play doubles with Tim Henman on Centre Court.
He started his career as a salesman for a womenswear company,
selling coats in the 1960s.
After six years Mr Marks decided to start his own label and
commissioned Pierre DAlby, a Parisian designer, to come up
with ideas for the clothes. He later became the inspiration
for the company’s name.
Today French Connection is one of Britain’s most successful
brands, but it had an inauspicious start after Mr Marks attempted
to flood the market by buying 3,000 cheesecloth shirts at
£1 each from a dealer in India.
The deal did not quite turn out as he planned when, after
ordering half with long sleeves and half with short sleeves,
the shirts arrived with one arm of each length. News of the
share sale came as French Connection said that trading at
its British high street shops had been weak so far this year,
compared with some exceptionally strong trading over the same
period last year.
Despite the poor start to the year, the company said that
its wholesale business, which involves selling its clothes
in advance to department stores, had more than compensated
and overall it expected its performance to meet investors
The businessman in Stephen Marks may shudder at the cost of
his wife leaving, as his divorce heads the rich list of expensive
• Pamela and Steve Morgan: an affair cost the Jersey-based
building tycoon an estimated £100 million, including
an estimated £26 million stake in the company, although
the settlement has never been made public.
• Abdullah Mastry and Mona al-Khatib: a British court
ordered Mr Mastry to pay his former wife £26.3 million
after he abducted his four children from their London home
two years ago. Mr Masry, who is thought to be worth £150
million, is calling for the settlement to be overturned, arguing
that he considers himself to be subject to Sharia which does
not recognise divorce.
• Harry and Shan Lambert: in 2002, Ms Lambert, a plumber's
daughter, won an appeal giving her an equal share of the newspaper
tycoon Harry Lambert's £20 million fortune. She argued
that, as a wife and mother, she had been an equal partner
in his business.
• Zeta and François Graff: Greek-born actress
Ms Graff was handed at least £10 million of the diamond
heir's estimated £157 million estate, claiming that
she was used as a promotional tool. She celebrated the settlement
with a caseload of £600 bottles of vintage Cristal champagne.
• Ian and Jan Gowrie Smith: Mr Gowrie Smith, the flamboyant
Australian City entrepreneur, cut one of his worst deals when
he agreed to pay his former wife Jan almost £10 million
and hand over the marital home in Chelsea. He also was forced
to hand over the bulk of his share in the company that he
created and named after the couple’s daughter, Skye.
• Terence and Caroline Conran: Ms Conran won a landmark
case against her interior designer husband when she was awarded
£10 million in 1996.
His case was not helped by tactless comments he made at the
time. "All she did was cook a few dinners," he said,
so unwittingly setting a precedent for hundreds of stay-at-home