Vladimir Potanin, a billionaire who helped bankroll much of the Winter Olympics including an entire ski resort in Sochi, is involved in a highly contentious divorce that is spilling over to the US.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Potanin, 53 and father of three children, has a $13.5 billion fortune. Prior to filing for divorce, he joined the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's Giving Pledge initiative last year to donate most of his wealth to charity. His assets include a 30% stake in Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium.
Potanin's spurned wife, Natalia Potanina, who was married to the billionaire for 30 years, filed a motion to the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on Feb. 4 and was granted the right to request documents from two American executives at the private equity firm, Altpoint, to search for information that she can use in potential divorce action.
Potanina has prepared subpoenas for Altpoint's portfolio that includes prominent U.S. companies owned by Potanin, including Ford Models, the agency that earlier represented Christie Brinkley, Bar Refaeli, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.
The subpoenas require Altpoint Chief Financial Officer Eric Chan and Managing Director Yuki Narula to testify in a deposition and hand over 13 categories of documents, including emails regarding the location of Potanin's assets and income he has made in recent years.
According to Natalia Potanina, "My husband has told me that unless I voluntarily accept his oral promises regarding support, he will make sure that I receive nothing," she said in a sworn declaration filed in U.S. court. "I consider his terms grossly unfair."
Potanina and her lawyers say Russian law entitles her to half of the couple's "marital property," including "significant assets" inside the United States. A hearing on the divorce is set for Feb. 25 in Moscow.
U.S. law says "any interested person" -- even someone overseas -- can seek relevant testimony and documents from someone inside the United States for a proceeding outside the country.
Potanina is currently living in the United States, after undergoing surgery at U.S. medical facility. It is unclear where the couple's three children, 2 adults and 1 teenager, are living.
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Source: Divorce of One of World's Richest Men Entangles American Execs, Mike Levine, ABC News, February 10, 2014