Prest v Petrodel Resources Limited and others: Appeal allowed

The Supreme Court has today allowed the wife's appeal in Prest v Petrodel.

The Issue
Whether it is open to the court in ancillary relief proceedings to treat the assets of a company of which a spouse is the sole controller as being assets to which that spouse is ‘entitled’ for the purposes of s 24(1)(a) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

The Facts
The appellant wife brought financial proceedings ancillary to her divorce from her husband Michael Prest. The husband was ordered to pay a lump sum of £17.5m to the wife, which he has not paid. The respondents are all Isle of Man companies under the control of the husband. The wife obtained an order that real property held by the respondents should be transferred to her so as to reduce the lump sum order. The respondents successfully appealed against that order.

The Decision
The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal by the wife and declared that the seven disputed properties vested in the companies are held on trust for the husband on the ground (which was not considered by the courts below) that, in the particular circumstances of the case, the properties were held by the husband’s companies on a resulting trust for the husband, and were accordingly “property to which the [husband] is entitled, either in possession or reversion”. Lord Sumption gave the leading judgment and Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Clarke and Lord Walker added concurring judgments.

A press summary of the judgment is available here, and the full judgment here.