Top divorce lawyer Raymond Tooth has such a ferocious reputation in court that he is known as Jaws. Renowned for landing ex-wives including Sadie Frost and Cheryl Barrymore huge settlements, he is a man in demand. "Don't get even," runs the motto, "get Tooth.
Tooth, 68, whose uncle by marriage, Rex Harrison, was married six times ("he didn't make a great success of it"), has a lifetime of experience he has himself been through the divorce courts twice. But he seems to have broken even his own record for settlements, says The Sunday Times. It emerged last week that his client Ingrid Myerson, ex-wife of City fund manager Bryan Myerson, is now entitled to 105% of her husband's assets.
Myerson is appealing for the £11m settlement to be re-written after his fund, Principal Capital Holdings, suffered heavy losses. He claims he now needs to borrow £500,000 to honour the deal. If successful, the appeal could see a flood of similar claims (see below). But first, Myerson's team has to defeat the doughty Tooth. As he told The Times: "If a man's wealth is all in shares and they drop 50% that's one thing. But if they rose in value, would a wife be able to go back for a larger share?"
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Tooth's vast, messy, Mayfair office is dominated by photographs of his race horses (he had a triumph at Cheltenham last week with his horse Punjabi) and piles of pink, blue and grey client files, says the Evening Standard. "There are more pink than blue, because 60% of my clients are women." The grey files, he explains, are "for people who you're not sure what they are". Many of his clients are high maintenance: one woman rang him 14 times in an evening and on the 15th call asked his advice on where she might dine. But Tooth, who has twice fallen in love with clients (he stresses this was after their divorces were finalised), is clearly accommodating. He never loses sight of the bottom line. Marrying a rich man is still a woman's most lucrative option, even in a recession, he told The Sunday Times. It's "a lot more [profitable] than working, if you marry the right person".
Tooth grew up in London, in a family he once described as being not unlike Galsworthy's Forsytes. "They were all bankers, lawyers, art dealers and they all disliked each other intensely." After Oxford, he toyed with going onto the stage his mother was an actress but ended up following his father into law, says The Observer. He started off doing plastic surgery cases: "Tits and bums and it all going wrong. But I wasn't terribly good at it. I just liked looking at the photographs". He fell into divorce law almost by accident when he represented the-then owner of H. Samuel, the jeweller, and never looked back. Although well past retirement age, Tooth has no urge to slow down. Hard work is part of the balance of life, he says, and he clearly enjoys its rewards: as well as a house in Antigua he has a Warwickshire farm, and a large art collection. "Diminutive and charming" in person, he has become a byword for ruthlessness in the courts. "People think I'm a bastard, which I'm not. I just try and get on with things," he told the Evening Standard. The way things are going, it's set to be a lucrative year.
Want to divorce him? Best hang on for a while yet...
Raymond Tooth has a formidable record: he claims to have won 90% of his cases. So what is his advice to warring couples in the teeth of recession? "Wives would be better now to wait, as the courts are being very wary about awards because of the problem of making payments," he told The Sunday Times. This is the most important financial transaction you'll ever make, he says. "Hang on in there until times get better". His advice for men is the opposite: "Move on now while your star is low in the sky. You can escape with less."
Timing is vital in divorce, says The Times, and never more so than now. "The market is so volatile that you fix on a figure and by the time it reaches the point of being finalised, the market has changed," says Kathryn Peat, a partner at Gordon Dadds. "So you get husbands delaying until the 11th hour and some will be reluctant to settle at all." Mediation may be the answer. But Tooth's not a fan, says the Evening Standard. "Clients don't want you to be reasonable. They want you to take a tough line. That's part of the therapy." He has some "wonderfully frank" advice for gold-diggers, says The Sunday Times. "Look good, speak well [and]... go to the right places. Dinner parties. Charities. Art galleries. The best place to divorce is England or America, if you're the wife; and France if you're the husband: the French "are not very generous towards women". But the rich shouldn't contemplate marriage without a pre-nuptial agreement. Ultimately, Tooth reckons, the marriage sacrament is a busted flush. "Marriage is basically a money-based social transaction. In 25 years' time, there'll be renewable agreements."
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