UK: On Laurence Graff and the world’s other divorcing billionaires

Billionaires tend to have steady, long term marriages. Except this year their marriages are busting up like nobody’s business. Take a guy like self made billionaire British jeweller Laurence Graff, 70. He and his wife Anne Marie reportedly filed for divorce in UK and it was slated to be the most expensive divorce in UK history–similar to American/Vegas casino titan and billionaire Steve Wynn whose divorce from his long term wife Elaine is expected to be the most expensive in U.S. history with Elaine expected to walk away with at least half his $3 billion fortune. Graff’s divorce was even expected to out-cost that of Formula One billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, also of the UK whose divorce from his Slavic wife Slavica Ecclestone just became final a few weeks ago.

It has definitely been open season on the long term marriages of the world’s billionaires and I am not sure why that is, exactly. It all started when Sumner Redstone announced his divorce from his teacher wife and it snowballed from there. And it is not just the men. BMW heiress Susanne Quandt Klatten, Germany’s richest woman, and a billionaire, is said to be experiencing marital trouble following revelations that she was having an affair with a Swiss/Italian attorney who was trying to blackmail her for several million Euros in hush money. And Antiguan/Texan billionaire R. Allen Stanford is also in the midst of a divorce from his long term wife Susan Stanford of Texas.

So Laurence Graff definitely has a lot of company. But unlike most of the others, Graff recently called off his divorce in London High Court from his wife Anne Marie Graff, also 70. It turns out that they loved each other too much for too long just to end it like that. Graff who rose from rags to riches from the East End of London is said to be very much in love with his wife. 

Last year Forbes ranked Mr. Graff number 462 on the list of billionaires, and unlike many of his contemporaries, his wealth seems particularly recession-proof. Check out this link for more on Graff’s divorce:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/4936488/Billionaire-jeweller-Laurence-Graff-in-mystery-over-record-breaking-mysterydivorce.html

The International Herald Tribune once dubbed Graff “The King of Diamonds” Says the Tribune:

Graff is also philosophical about diamonds. He says that they are the last things people give up, after “their homes, their wives, everything.”

He reportedly has sold “bespoke” diamonds to such luminaries as Donald Trump, Elizabeth Taylor, the Sultan of Brunei, President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, the Saudi Royal Family and the Duchess of Windsor, amongst others. From all accounts, it seems he has been very generous to his wife over the years which makes the filing of the divorce even more perplexing to most people who know them. Why would people married for such a long time seek a divorce? Maybe the wife allowed her legs to become too hirsute?

In the book The Most Fabulous Jewels in the World Meredith Etherington-Smith writes that the extravagant Graff “reset the emerald from the Duchess of Windsor’s engagement ring and presented to his wife as an 25th anniversary present.”  How could Annie then turn around and ask him for a divorce? Oh. That’s right. One can’t exactly make love to a diamond. A diamond can’t buy love. But after such a lengthy marriage, one would think that Anne Marie would know beyond the shadow of a doubt that her husband loved her more than he loved his diamonds, no?

Well, it seems she came to her senses.

And not a moment too soon because she had a lot to lose if she didn’t. The Graffs reportedly own a bunch of South African blood diamond mines and a bunch of exclusive jewelry shops in London, Monte Carlo, New York, Antwerp and Geneva among other places. It wasn’t all just the profit motive that drove them, though. The son of Jewish immigrants, Graff is also a huge philanthropist and an art lover as well.

It must be an exciting life, if nothing else for the 70 year old couple who are the parents of three amazing adult kids, including sons Stephane and Francois. A divorce would have totally de-stabilized both their lives and that of their family. I, for one, am glad they changed their minds.

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