Millionaires' Ex-Wives Club Made Me So Happy To Be Broke & Single

Photo courtesy of BBC/Camilla Greenwell
Lisa Tchenguiz
At first, I thought I was going to love this show. I was drawn to the title, and to the idea of watching hideously rich people fight over Bentleys, yachts and their ridiculous Mayfair homes filled with Fabergé eggs and Ming vases and designer dogs who only eat caviar. Oh, and white people love white carpet.
But filmmaker Lynn Alleway's divorce documentary is less reality TV escapism at the expense of others and more fly on the wall at the most horrific family fight ever. With divorce law in England and Wales now dictating that a couple's assets have to be split 50-50 as a starting point, increasingly couples are battling it out in court, and paying divorce lawyers £900 an hour in an effort to get what they want.
The show follows two women who went into battle with their filthy rich exes, spending millions of pounds and years of their lives in the process.
First is Lisa Tchenguiz, whose family fortune helped her fund her divorce. Married for nine years to her second husband, multimillionaire Vivian Imerman, when it came to the divorce Tchenguiz wanted a 50-50 split, amounting to £120 million. Her ex, who went back to live with his first wife and their children, offered her £2 million – so she took him to court.
Tchenguiz is sexy, blow-dried to within an inch of her life, looks like she hasn't touched carbs since the '80s and drinks bulletproof coffees infused with 'brain octane'. She has a full-time driver and two housekeepers. Having grown up with money, she says it would have been "naive" to expect she'd marry "the local plumber".
She speaks in a throaty husk, growling out gems like: "I'd rather have money and be sad, than no money and be sad."
But she's also suffered. She sacrificed her own career for her husband, raising their daughter and allowing him to go out to work until he left her. "Money can give you comfort, but can it magically take away the pain? No."
Later, touching on the often thankless role women play in stories like this, she states: "He would have never done what he did had I not been in the picture."
Tchenguiz isn't a gold digger. She was rich before she met her husband. The 50/50 rule is the law; all she did was ask for what was legally hers.
"It goes down like a bowl of cat sick to be honest," says Davina Katz, partner and head of family at Schillings law firm, of the reaction of many of her male clients when they realise their ex is entitled to half of their worth.
Divorce lawyer Diane Parker explains it this way: "It's about a view in society that marriage is a partnership of equals. If you've been in a long marriage and you've each contributed your bit, then what's the problem with a 50/50 split?"
Photo Courtesy of BBC/ Camilla Greenwell
Michelle Young
Michelle Young's divorce battle – the longest running case in British legal divorce history – is ongoing. She's clocked up 65 court hearings and 13 sets of lawyers in her crusade against her ex-husband Scot Young. They had two children and lived an incredibly lavish lifestyle together (he filled brand new Range Rovers full of gifts for her), but it fell apart fast when she found out he was having an affair. Now she refers to him as "Mr Young".
£17m in debt from loans and legal fees, Young now lives in a rented basement flat but shows no sign of giving in, despite being emotionally and financially rinsed.
She also spent her life supporting a man – being a "scratching post", as one lawyer puts it – the person who made sure everything in the home was perfect, raising children and being there when he needed her.
At one point, in tears, standing at the end of the spectacular tree-lined drive leading to her palatial former home, she is asked: "Is it very hard to give up?" Her reply: "Who said I've given up?"
I can't help thinking that if Michelle Young had testicles, we'd use words like tenacious, ballsy, ferocious and unwavering to describe her, but I fear she'll be classed as bitter, unable to move on, a woman scorned.
The story gets dirtier, darker and has a dramatic ending, but it's not all about the cash, it’s about betrayal, power and emotion.
I took no pleasure in watching Millionaires' Ex-Wives Club; it was excruciating, maddening in parts.
I thought it might make me feel envious of the men and women with megabucks but instead it made me feel enormously grateful for my humble, single life.
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