Debutantes who crave “a bit of rough”

An heiress choosing a "bad boy" to marry is a win-win for everybody.


Ecclestone and Stunt in happier times
(Image credit: Copyright (c) 2015 Rex Features. No use without permission.)

Bernie Ecclestone may be abillionaire, but there are some things that even your money can't protect you from a nightmare son-in-law, for example. The Formula One mogul's daughter Petra is involved in a "highly acrimonious divorce" from her husband of five years, James Stunt, says Hilary Rose in The Times.

It's been alleged that Stunt was "abusive, violent and took overdoses" and he has already been criticised in court by the judge for his "disgraceful" and "unedifying" behaviour. When his demand to live in a house owned by Mr Ecclestone (via a trust) was refused, "he stormed out of court". All this is a far cry from the couple's fairytale wedding, which took place over three days in an Italian castle and cost £12m.

Petra is entitled to half of her father's £2.5bn fortune, and Stunt also claims to be a billionaire, so it's likely the divorce settlement could be the biggest in celebrity history, says Clemmie Moodie in the Daily Mail. Assets include their £158m mansion in Los Angeles and a Grade II-listed pile in the fashionable London district of Chelsea worth up to £100m. The value of Stunt's wine collection alone has been put at around £4m, and he is ferried to court each day in "a £600,000 Rolls-Royce Mansory Conquistador". And this isn't his only pair of wheels he is "well-known for travelling around London with a cavalcade of blacked out Rolls-Royce Phantoms".

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Fellow billionaire Philip Green, the fashion retailer, may be about to suffer from the same sorts of problems. His daughter Chloe has been spotted kissing a fellow called Jeremy Meeks, aka the "Hot Felon". Meeks is "a violent ex-con turned model who first came to the attention of the fashion world when his police mugshot went viral", says Shane Watson in The Daily Telegraph. "He's got a record as long as Phil's arm, he's beaten a 16-year-old boy half to death, and... he's married." He says he found God while in prison, but he still looks like "the slam dunk of unsuitable boyfriends".

Of course, Chloe may take a slightly different view of things, and probably thinks that she "has triumphed in the latest round of Bad Boy Top Trumps", points out Laura Pullman in The Sunday Times. "For many well-brought-up women, snaring a bad boy wonderfully disrupts the set path of marrying an Old Etonian accountant" and "living in Fulham with a Range Rover and black labrador".

Choosing a former criminal means that life "is suddenly deliciously unpredictable". But be warned, you "debutantes fresh out of Swiss finishing school" while a "bit of rough will tear out your heart", a "bona-fide bad boy will tear it out and then sell it for drugs".

Cut the condemnation, says Rosamund Urwin in the Evening Standard. Maybe Chloe Green deserves praise "for doing her bit, amid concerns about a lack of social mobility". If the relationship works, this could be part of "a new strategy to cut reoffending rates a dating agency that pairs former felons with tycoons' offspring".

After all, in such cases, "everybody wins". The ex-con "climbs aboard the private jet". The heiress fulfills her aim of annoying her parents. And the rest of us get to poke fun at them as the whole business takes its predictable course. Of course, before tying the knot, Chloe "might want to think about the wife Meeks only this week remembered to ditch".

Tabloid money red is back

Red is back in Britain, says Tim Montgomerie in The Sun on Sunday. Socialism has returned with Jeremy Corbyn ahead in the opinion polls. And ever more red-coloured energy and phone bills are dropping through letterboxes. The average household is "up to its neck" in £7,700 of credit card and "other all-too-easily-accessed" forms of consumer borrowing. "It's amazing that just ten years after their greed caused the last crash, the big banks have been so willing to increase our credit limits." As the economy slows down, "the alert signs are flashing and they, too, are flashing red".

Speaking of which, racking up £50,000 in student debt is no way to start out in adulthood, says Judy Finnigan in the Daily Express. But it turns out that three-quarters of students will never repay their loans in full. Who picks up the tab? Us taxpayers. If tax is being "quietly used to mop up huge amounts of student debt, why not be open about it? I'm no economist, but I simply cannot believe it is beyond the wit of a half-decent chancellor to come up with a system that spreads the costs and risks of paying for degree courses." One such risk is encouraging youngsters to think incurring huge debt is normal. "It isn't. Especially if you know you won't necessarily have to pay it back."

Given their soaring tuiton costs, why aren't students out protesting against the "fat-cat salary" of the average university chief, wonders Camilla Tominey in the Sunday Express. Labour peer Lord Adonis "quite rightly" branded University of Bath staff "greedy" after it emerged 67 employees are on salaries of over £100,000 a year. Vice-chancellor Glynis Breakwell earned almost £500,000 an 11% rise on the year before and more than three times what the prime minister earns. "Is anyone seriously suggesting this woman has a bigger workload than Theresa May?"