A tycoon has claimed that he faces being ‘destitute’ after losing his family’s multi-million pound property fortune to his wife in a bitter ‘winner takes all’ divorce battle.
Peter Andreewitch, 60, and long-term partner Magali Moutreuil, 49, have been scrapping in the courts over a £2.2 million Grade-II listed home in Christchurch Street, Chelsea – a few doors from the cottage where Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh lived – plus an international property portfolio.
The couple got together in 1998 and raised five children in the family home in Chelsea, London, but split after almost 20 years in 2017.
The tycoon had transferred the shares in the company which owned the properties to Ms Moutreuil whilst they were together in a bid to ‘shield himself’ from financial risk, but then after the split insisted the houses were still his.
In 2020, Mr Andreewitch – who had earlier beaten a bid by his ex to have him jailed for contempt of court – lost a fight for ownership of the properties when a judge said they were beneficially owned by Ms Moutreuil.
Peter Andreewitch (pictured), 60, claimed that he faces being ‘destitute’ after losing his family’s multi-million pound property fortune to his wife in a bitter ‘winner takes all’ divorce battle
An appeal application was subsequently refused, but Mr Andreewitch fought on, launching a new bid for ownership, which was rejected as an ‘abuse of process’ by Judge Michael Jefferis at the High Court earlier this year.
Mr Andreewitch claimed such a ruling would ‘finish’ him, but despite being warned that prolonging the court war further could wipe out the family fortune completely, is now trying to appeal the decision.
At a hearing in June this year the court heard that the properties had been owned by Mr Andreewitch through a company, Pier Investment Company Ltd, but that over 20 years ago he transferred ‘the entirety of the shares in the company’ to his then new girlfriend Ms Moutreuil.
He made the move in a bid to ‘shield’ himself from ‘future exposure’ to creditors and ‘conceal the existence’ of his wealth, he had told a judge at an earlier hearing.
However he insisted he had never intended Ms Moutreuil to be the lawful beneficial owner of their London house and a string of other properties in Germany.
After their relationship broke down in 2017, but whilst they were still living together in the home with their kids, Mr Andreewitch began to insist to Ms Moutreuil that she had no rights or interests in the property, the court heard.
However she refused to back down to pressure from her wealthy former partner, who the court previously heard also has a number of ‘UK properties’.
Ms Montreuil won during the first trial in 2020, but Mr Andreewitch brought a new claim earlier this year, effectively to reopen the ownership issue and take back the properties.
Ms Montreuil (pictured) won during the first trial in 2020, but Mr Andreewitch brought a new claim earlier this year, effectively to reopen the ownership issue
He pointed to alleged ‘assurances’ from Ms Montreuil that he would not be left ‘destitute’ following the row and claimed that he was owed about £2.3m from an unpaid loan.
He also argued that the German property portfolio bought through the company between 2004 and 2010 was being held in ‘trust’ by the company for him.
But the judge dismissed the loan claim and found the shares and the company’s assets, including the German property, were all owned beneficially by Ms Moutreuil, saying that Mr Andreewitch had argued himself that the company assets could not be split.
He said any assurances by Ms Montreuil to Mr Andreewitch had been based on his not prolonging the litigation by appealing and bringing new cases, resulting in her running up £300,000 in lawyers’ bills.
‘In my judgment, looking at the overall position, Ms Montreuil made her position clear, namely that she felt a moral obligation and intended to provide for the claimant, but she never made a promise upon which it was reasonable for the claimant to rely,’ Judge Jefferis said.
The couple have been in a savage war in the courts over a £2.2 million Grade-II listed home in Christchurch Street, Chelsea
Although her lawyers had said she had ‘every intention’ to make sure he is not left destitute, that had been a ‘mere statement of intention’ at the time and family resources had since been eaten up by the case being dragged out, he continued.
‘Times have moved on,’ he said.
‘Money spent on costs and tax is no longer there to pay to the claimant and if the litigation goes on, there may be nothing left.’
His claim that his ex had promised that she ‘intended to give him the same provision as she needed for herself’ had not survived the costs of the continuing court fight, said the judge.
‘That probably was once her intention but it was only an expression of ‘intention’ and times have moved on,’ he said.
‘The defendants have expended some £300,000 in costs and the litigation between them goes on and the companies’ tax liabilities need to be quantified and paid.’
Mr Andreewitch insisted he had never intended Ms Moutreuil to be the lawful beneficial owner of their London house and a string of other properties in Germany
In one alleged assurance, she had told him that when the litigation was finished, ‘there can be provision for you, but if you go on making barriers, ignoring court order, bringing more court battles and legal fees, simply said less will be left.’
‘In my judgment this was a fair warning,’ said the judge.
The judge also addressed a final alleged promise which Ms Moutreuil had given in response to a claim by Mr Andreewitch’s new partner that Ms Montreuil was ‘trying to systematically strip him of 100 per cent of his assets and income.’
Ms Montreuil had denied that, but the judge said that did not amount to an ‘assurance’ he could rely on as a claim to money in court.
‘It is a denial that she was being vindictive,’ he said.
Dismissing his claims as an abuse of process, he said: ‘The claimant appears to be trying to challenge the judgment as to the ownership of the property, which is an abuse of process.’
He also dismissed Mr Andreewitch’s other claims, going on to order him to foot a further costs bill of £18,000.
Mr Andreewitch has since applied for permission to appeal Judge Jefferis’ ruling, with his application yet to be determined.