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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia's Richest Couple Call It Quits

ReutersAbramovich, Irina, and one of their children at a football game in June 2004.
The court case was probably short. It could have been in Moscow or the Far East republic of Chukotka. This much is clear: When it was all over, the fate of $18.7 billion had been decided.

Billionaire businessman Roman Abramovich and his wife, Irina, went public with the news Wednesday. They have divorced and agreed on a settlement in a Russian court, just months after Abramovich called rumors of a split "incorrect and hurtful."

"Mr. and Mrs. Abramovich have divorced in Russia on a consensual basis and have agreed [to] terms in respect of arrangements for their children and a financial settlement," Abramovich's holding company, Millhouse, said in a statement. "Mr. Abramovich's corporate interests, including Chelsea Football Club, are not affected by the divorce proceedings."

No date was given for the divorce, where it took place or how much the settlement involved.

Divorce lawyer Valery Chernenko said the divorce proceedings began at least a month ago -- given the time needed for the application process -- and that it must have taken place in a jurisdiction where the Abramovichs had been registered in Russia.

Given that they had apparently agreed on a settlement before the proceedings began, Chernenko said, the proceedings would not have taken long.

The Millhouse statement did not shed much light on the proceedings. "Mr. and Mrs. Abramovich would appreciate it if the family's privacy would be respected. No further comment will be made," it said.

Abramovich, 40, who is also the governor of Chukotka, made his fortune in Russia's wild 1990s, buying the London-based Chelsea football squad in 2003. He is known for keeping quiet about his private life. As late as 1999, Russian newspapers did not have a photograph of him.

With so few details available, speculation about how Abramovich's fortune would be divided was rampant. As the 16th richest man in the world, according to Forbes magazine, the settlement is likely to make Irina Abramovich the wealthiest Russian woman in the world and one of the richest people, male or female, on the planet.

Abramovich is ranked as the second richest person in Britain, where he spends much of his time. Irina Abramovich and their five children also live there.

The divorce, despite previous denials, was not unexpected.

"We knew this was coming. I heard that it was all over by Christmas," said Chris Hutchins, who co-wrote the 2004 book "Abramovich: The Billionaire From Nowhere," in a telephone interview.

Reports of a possible divorce first emerged in the London tabloid News of the World in October. The newspaper reported that Irina Abramovich, who met Abramovich when she was an Aeroflot flight attendant, had paid a visit to the law firm Sears Tooth about a divorce. Sears Tooth refused to comment Wednesday.

At the time, Abramovich took the unusual step of responding to media reports by denying any breakup in a conversation with Alexei Venediktov, the head of Ekho Moskvy radio. Abramovich described the allegations as painful.

On Wednesday, British newspapers were scrambling to estimate how much Abramovich walked away with. Figures ranged from nearly $2 billion to just shy of $10 billion.

Russian divorce law splits assets fifty-fifty but does not figure in alimony for divorced wives. If there are children in a marriage, an allowance is given of up to 50 percent of an ex-husband's wages.

If Irina Abramovich gets just half of her ex-husband's money, she would be only the second female Russian billionaire, joining Yelena Baturina, wife of Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

"Nobody is going to know the figure," said Hutchins, citing one of his sources as saying: "They both have more money than they need to spend even if they live to 200."

With the divorce, Abramovich has made a timely entrance onto the Russian billionaire singles circuit. Russian newspapers are abuzz with rumors that Russia's so-called most eligible billionaire bachelor, Mikhail Prokhorov, is due to exit the singles scene and get married May 3, his 42nd birthday. Norilsk Nickel, the company Prokhorov runs, denied this Wednesday.

But if the British tabloids are to be believed, Abramovich is already in a romance with Darya Zhukova, a 23-year-old model featured in Vogue last year, who is also a former girlfriend of tennis great Marat Safin. The romance is said to be the reason Irina Abramovich sought a divorce.

Indeed, the Abramovich statement came only after pictures were offered to British tabloids that showed Abramovich and Zhukova together in Paris, The Sun and The Mirror reported. The pictures were not published after Zhukova's lawyers threatened legal action.

"I couldn't believe he would sacrifice his marriage and forsake the mother of his five children for this girl," Hutchins said. "But he likes a new model."