The Biggest Celebrity Divorce Payouts Ever 2

With all the recent talk about how much Heather Mills stands to get in her divorce from Paul McCartney, we got to wondering what the other biggest divorce settlements were. There are a lot of lists out there, but we couldn’t find one as comprehensive as the one we’ve put together here.

It’s not surprising to discover that many of the marriages on this list were fairly long term (at least for Hollywood). In general, the longer the marriage, the larger the divorce settlement or award will be – for this group, at least. In the longer marriages, there was more time to accumulate marital wealth (also known as community property). For the shorter marriages on this list, the length of the marriage might not have made a big difference because it was the timing of the marriage that resulted in a big payout. If a celebrity has a few big hits at the box office or on the radio during a short coupling, the marital assets earned during that time could be substantial. For a great example of this, check out the Linda Hamilton/James Cameron divorce discussed below.

Celebrity Divorces: the Rich and Famous

  • $3.5 million: actor/comedian Jim Carrey and Melissa Womer, his first wife. Carrey and Womer were married for eight years, from 1987 to 1995. They have one child together. The couple met and married before Carrey hit it big in Hollywood. During their marriage, Carrey found comedic success and starred in the television show In Living Color and in movies Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb & Dumber.
  • $6 million: actor Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen. Stallone and Nielsen were married for only two years, but those two years saw the success of Stallone’s Rocky IV and Rambo films.
  • $12 million: Stallone and his first wife Sasha. Stallone was married to Sasha for 11 years, from 1974 to 1985. They have two sons. After their divorce, Stallone almost immediately married Brigitte Nielsen. It was during his marriage to Sasha that Stallone rocketed to fame and fortune with the first three Rocky movies and the first Rambo movie, First Blood.
  • $15-$25 million: rock legend Mick Jagger and model Jerry Hall. Jagger and Hall met in 1977. They had two children together before marrying in 1990. They divorced in 1999 after Hall found out that Jagger fathered a child by someone else. Jagger was successful in challenging their Balinese marriage ceremony and was able to have the marriage annulled. Hall still got a substantial settlement in the neighborhood of $15 – 25 million. Jagger’s net worth at the time was reportedly about $325 million (much of this though was likely made prior to the Jagger-Hall relationship and certainly before their marriage).
  • $14 million plus two multi-million dollar homes: business mogul Donald Trump and Ivana Trump. These two were married for almost 15 years and had three children together. They divorced after Donald became involved with his next wife, Marla Maples. The divorce was played out in the media and made them into stars.
  • $20 million: singer Lionel Richie and his second wife, Diane Richie. Lionel met Diane when he was 36 and she was 18. They reportedly began a relationship shortly thereafter, while he was still married to his first wife Brenda (Nicole Richie’s mother). Brenda and Lionel divorced in 1993. Lionel and Diane had a child in 1994, married in 1995, then had another child in 1998. They divorced in 2004, in a very public and bitter battle.
  • $20 million: television host Johnny Carson and Joanna Carson, his third wife. Johnny and Joanna were married for 11 years, 1972 to 1983, but had no children together. The couple lived and divorced in California, a community property state, where the assets accumulated during the marriage are divided equally between the divorcing spouses.
  • $20 million: rock star Bruce Springsteen and Julianne Phillips. Springsteen married the relatively unknown model/actress in 1985, at the height of his commercial popularity following the Born in the USA album. They divorced in 1989. He immediately began seeing his bandmate and future second wife Patti Scialfa. This short term marriage was timed right (or wrong, if you’re Springsteen) because of the vast amounts of money brought in by Springsteen between ’85 and ’89.
  • $25 million: actor Clint Eastwood and Maggie, his wife of 31 years. Clint and Maggie Eastwood were married from 1953 to 1984. They were married before he became a star. Over the years, Maggie endured Clint’s numerous affairs. He even had a child by another woman while married to Maggie. She went on to have two children by Clint and didn’t divorce him for another 20 years. During their marriage, Clint became a huge international movie star.

And those don’t even crack the top 15

  • $30 million: actor Ted Danson and Casey Coates. Danson and Coates were married from 1976 to 1992 when he left her for Whoopi Goldberg. They have two children together. Their marriage pre-dated his Cheers and movie stardom – all which undoubtedly made them very wealthy.
  • $40 million: actor Kevin Costner and Cindy Silva. Kevin and Cindy were college sweethearts. They were married for 16 years and had three children. They divorced amidst many rumors that Kevin was unfaithful. They were, however, married during Kevin’s peak earning years and Cindy was able to leave the marriage with a substantial net worth, thanks to movies like Bull Durham, Dances with Wolves, Field of Dream, JFK and The Bodyguard.
  • $45 million: actor Michael Douglas and Diandra Douglas. These two were married for 20 years, 1977 to 1997. Their marriage preceded his super-stardom. They have one son. There were alleged infidelities and alcohol abuse on the part of Michael. The divorce was fairly vicious and Diandra walked away with approximately 1/3 of Michael’s net worth. The divorce negotiations took over two years, after which Michael immediately married Catherine Zeta Jones.
  • £24.3 million (about $48 million at the time): icon Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. [Update: To read more about the McCartney-Mills divorce, read our March 17, 2008 post.]
  • £25 million: ’80’s hitmaker Phil Collins and third wife Orianne Cevey. These two were married in 1999 and divorced in 2008. They have two young sons and live in Switzerland, Cevey’s homeland. Collins met Cevey while he was still married to his second wife, Jill Tavelman (with whom he has one daughter). The divorce from Tavelman reportedly cost Collins $34 million.
  • $50 million (or more): director James Cameron and actress Linda Hamilton. Cameron and Hamilton first got together in 1991. They didn’t marry until 1997. Shortly thereafter, Cameron’s movie Titanic was released and he reportedly started sleeping with Suzi Amis, an actress in the film. Hamilton and Cameron were married for a grand total of 17 months. They were separated for eight of those months and had one child. Cameron received $100 million for Titanic during those 17 months – so Hamilton got half. Cameron went on to marry Suzi Amis. He has been married five times.
  • $60 million: country singer Kenny Rogers and Marianne Rogers, his fourth wife. Kenny and Marianne were married almost 16 years, during which time Kenny amassed great wealth. They have one son together. Trivia note: when they met, Marianne was one of the cleavage-bearing presenters on the long-running variety show, Hee-Haw.
  • $76 to $92 million: pop icon Madonna and film director Guy Ritchie. These two were married for almost eight years before divorcing amidst rumors of an affair between Madonna and baseball star Alex Rodriguez. Madonna is reportedly worth $500 million; Ritchie somewhere between $20 and $35 million. They quickly settled their divorce with Madonna agreeing to a property settlement, including a country home and a pub, worth somewhere between £50 and £60 million.
  • $85 million: actor Harrison Ford and screenwriter Melissa Mathison. A seemingly normal and stable couple, Ford and Mathison were married for 17 years. They met in 1977 (about the time that Star Wars was released) and married in 1983. They had two children together. Between 1983 and 2000, Ford became one of Hollywood’s highest paid actors. Mathison was able to secure not only a share of the wealth they accumulated during their marriage but also a portion of his residual checks for movies he made while they were married. So, she still gets a percentage of the money he continues to make off of movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Fugitive and Patriot Games.
  • $100 million: director Steven Spielberg and actress Amy Irving. Spielberg and Irving met in 1977 and married in 1985, after Spielberg had released the first Indiana Jones movie and ET. They had one child during their 34-month marriage. Irving reportedly contested their prenuptial agreement and was ultimately awarded $100 million, which was roughly half of Spielberg’s net worth at the time. It was a mere blip on Spielberg’s historical radar – he is now worth approximately $3 billion.
  • $150 million: singer Neil Diamond and Marcia Murphey, his wife of 25 years. Diamond married Murphey in 1969 before he released his first gold record (Touching You, Touching Me if you’re curious). They divorced in the mid-90s amidst rumors of Diamond’s infidelity. The couple has two grown children. He is one of the highest selling recording artists of all time. She got half of his fortune and he has been quoted as saying that she deserved every penny of the settlement.
  • $150 million (or more): basketball legend Michael Jordan and Juanita Jordan. Michael and Juanita were married in 1989, after he achieved superstardom in the NBA. They have two sons and a daughter. They separated in 2002 but later reconciled. They filed for divorce again in 2006 and settled their differences in 2007. During their marriage, there were rampant rumors of Michael’s infidelity and several paternity claims against him. [Update: Read about one of them in our March 22nd post.] The financial empire amassed from Michael’s NBA earnings and vast endorsement deals during the marriage ensured Juanita a huge divorce settlement.

Now, we know a lot about celebrity divorces because of their high public profile and because of tabloid magazines and celebrity bloggers. But celebrities haven’t cornered the market on pricey divorces. Not by a long shot. In fact, these numbers put the Hollywood numbers to shame…

Non-Celebrity Divorces: Not So Famous, Just Really Rich

  • $184 million: energy industry millionaire Michael Polsky and Maya Polsky. The Polskys immigrated to the U.S. from Russia in the ’70s. In the ’90s, Michael Polsky built a very profitable energy firm in Chicago called Invenergy. After a 31 year marriage, Maya Polsky filed for divorce. A judge awarded her the largest divorce award in Illinois history – $184 million, half of Michael Polsky’s net worth.
  • $300 million: Roman Abramovich (the richest man in Russia and the second richest man in the U.K. – where he has a home and owns the Chelsea football club) and Irina Abramovich. Abramovich reportedly amassed an $18.7 billion fortune in the span of a decade. The couple divorced after a 16 year marriage. Irina Abramovich walked away with $300 million in assets, not including ongoing financial support for the couple’s five children. Roman Abramovich was seeing a 23 year old Russian woman at the time of the divorce.
  • $460 million: telecommunications billionaire Craig McCaw and Wendy McCaw. These two met as undergrads at Stanford and were married for 21 years. He built a cable and cellular phone service business into a national force. He sold his cell phone company to AT&T where it became known as AT&T Wireless and then Cingular. That transaction netted McCaw and his brother/business partner $12.6 billion, a year before his divorce from Wendy. Their case was settled before trial. Wendy’s settlement was the largest ever in the state of Washington.
  • $874 million: Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi and Soraya Khashoggi. It is unknown how accurate the $874 million figure is because the settlement was possibly tied to oil prices. In any event, the amount of the settlement was staggering. Khashoggi made his money as an international arms dealer for the Saudi royal family (his name popped up in the Iran-Contra arms scandal of the ’80s). He now operates a huge holding company that owns banks, hotels and real estate worldwide. Adnan and Soraya were married from 1961 to 1982. Both were unfaithful during their marriage (in fact, one of their daughters turned out to be the biological daughter of a British cabinet member – discovered after she had a DNA test done as an adult). A “small world” bit of trivia: it has been reportedly by several people that Khashoggi paid a pre-McCartney Heather Mills for sex on multiple occasions in the ’90s.
  • $1.7 billion: media tycooon Rupert Murdoch and Anna Murdoch. Rupert married Anna in 1967 when she was a young writer at one of his Australian newspapers. They were married for 32 years and had three children. Her huge settlement included $110 million in cash. Seventeen days after their divorce was final, Rupert again married one of his employees – Wendi Deng, who is 37 years his junior.

If we can learn anything from this list, it is this: time matters. The length of these wealthy marriages and the timing of the shorter marriages were key to the large settlements and awards. Most of the property distributions discussed here were probably a fairly equal split of the assets earned during the marriage. It’s all about what assets were accumulated during the marriage – whether the marriage was long or short. The divorce laws are the same for everyone. These folks just had a LOT more to account for and split than the rest of us!