The Top 10 Biggest Divorce Settlements in History
Divorce settlements can be incredibly painful, especially if they’re large. Few people want to give their former partner a large payday for a split. But people with plenty of assets can head into nasty divorces with eye-popping divorce settlements.
Most expensive divorce settlements
Per the researchers in the Wikipedia community, these are the top 10 most expensive divorce settlements in history. We’ve listed them in order, including adjusting the payouts to today’s dollars.
1. Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates made headlines in 2021 for moving through the most expensive divorce in history. Melinda walked out of the union with a $76 billion settlement.
In interviews, Bill said that his divorce represented a personal low point. People speculated about the cause of the split, and nasty details about infidelity and fights spilled into the news. This very private couple lost all control over the narrative, and they fought over their assets in court.
After the divorce, Bill and Melinda continued to work on their foundation together. The big payment didn’t break their relationship entirely.
2. Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos
Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos were married for about 25 years. In their 2019 split, MacKenzie got a settlement of $38 billion, adjusted to $43.5 billion in today’s dollars.
This was another messy divorce, and the details once again spilled into the news. Discussions of infidelity, fighting, and so much more made big headlines and completely ruined this family’s privacy.
The settlement came, in part, through stocks. MacKenzie got a 4% stake in Amazon. Since the company continues to grow, her payout does, too. She married again in 2021 but filed for divorce in September 2022.
3. Alec and Jocelyn Wildenstein
For years, Alec and Jocelyn Wildenstein were the hip, go-to couple in New York. They held wild parties, and they had very public spending habits that some people found intriguing. Jocelyn’s fascination with surgery didn’t help matters, as that garnered much media attention.
When the two split in the 1990s, the settlement came to $3.8 billion, adjusted to $6.7 billion in today’s dollars. The settlement represented the end of a nasty divorce.
The split involved things like adultery, gunplay, and arrests. As the divorce dragged on, the fights increased. At one point, Alec was arrested. The more they argued, the higher the stakes and potential payouts.
4. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West
In 2022, this celebrity couple finalized a very public divorce. They were wealthy when they married, but their estate was large, amounting to $2.7 billion. Kim got $200,000 per month in child support.
Kardashian and West had a prenup that helped to divide their assets. But since there was so much wealth between them, a payout seemed at least a little inevitable.
The split was public and awful, but the public arguments didn’t center on money. The two didn’t argue in the news about how much one should get. Their public fighting was in regard to new relationships and parenting disagreements.
5. Rupert and Anna Murdoch
In 1998, Rupert and Anna Murdoch finalized a divorce for an eye-popping $1.7 billion, which translates to about $3 billion in today’s dollars. At the time, this was a huge divorce settlement few people had seen before.
Anna declined to disclose how much she got in the divorce settlement when she was interviewed later. But she did point out that she lost positions within the news world she helped to build. A payout was likely the best way to help her accept her reduced role.
6. Adnan and Soraya Khashoggi
Some people may not have heard of Adnan and Soraya Khashoggi, but between the 1960s and 1980s, they were associated with glamor and decadence. When they divorced, Soraya got a reputed $874 million, translating to $2.7 billion in today’s dollars.
Soraya claimed in interviews that she didn’t get any of the money from her settlement. Later, she was living a very frugal life filled with rides on public transit. Her simple habits do seem to suggest that she didn’t get the money she was entitled to.
7. Bill and Sue Gross
In 2017, these two split up after 31 years of marriage. During the divorce, both sides claimed that the split was caused by infidelity and relentless fighting. They traded nasty words via phone calls, text messages, and more.
The final settlement was $1.3 billion, adjusted to $1.6 billion in today’s dollars. Per California’s laws, their property and assets were equally split. Since the estate was so large, there was a lot to divide.
The funds didn’t solve the problem. After the settlement, they played nasty tricks on one another, including using fart spray and dead fish to stink up the other’s house.
8. Bernie and Slavica Ecclestone
In this settlement, the payment was made from wife to husband. The divorce was completed in 2009, and the payout was $1.2 billion, adjusted to $1.6 billion in today’s dollars.
Reporters suggest that some fancy accounting techniques were responsible for the big settlement. Bernie transferred assets to his wife to avoid a big tax bill. When they divorced, she paid these funds back through the settlement.
9. Steve and Elaine Wynn
Casino owners Steve and Elaine Wynn were married in 1963, and they divorced in 1986. The settlement was a whopping $1 billion, adjusted to $1.3 billion in today’s dollars. Much of this settlement came in the form of stock transfers, which Elaine still holds.
This wasn’t the first divorce for these two. They were married in 1963, divorced in 1986, and remarried in 1991. Since they built their Las Vegas empire together, they had plenty of assets to split upon their divorce.
10. Harold Hamm and Sue Ann Arnall
Harold Hamm and Sue Ann Arnall had a very unusual divorce, which they continued to fight in court long after they were no longer cohabitating. The final settlement was $974.8 million in 2015, adjusted to $1.2 billion in today’s dollars.
The two were negotiating a final settlement. In the midst of the talks, Harold sent a check for $974.8 million. Sue Ann held that check for a few weeks and then cashed it. He considered the issue settled. She considered it a down payment. She went back to court to fight for more but lost that battle.
How can you keep your divorce settlement low?
Many of the examples we’ve provided involve two people with plenty of assets. They had a lot to split when they divorced, so the large payouts make sense. If you don’t have as much money, your settlements won’t be as large.
But prenuptial agreements can help a lot, even if your estate is small. It can benefit you to hammer out your financial details before you get married. If you ever divorce, you can return to those arrangements and avoid punitive damages.
Negotiating carefully can help, too. As many of these examples make clear, people who argue and fight during divorce tend to have ugly battles with high price tags.
Do your best to keep your emotions in check, and don’t attack the other person. You may be able to reduce your partner’s need to punish you through a big settlement.
If you can work out the details in mediation, it demonstrates that you’re willing to work with your partner and avoid hefty attorneys’ bills. While you won’t get everything you want in negotiations, your flexibility may ensure that you get at least some of what you want most. This level of compromise often helps couples reach a mutually beneficial conclusion.
ReferencesList of Most Expensive Divorces. (August 2023). Wikipedia.
Bill Gates Says His Divorce from Ex-Wife Melinda French Gates Was One of His Personal Low Points Over the Past Few Years. (December 2022). Insider.
MacKenzie Scott. (September 2023). Forbes.
Jocelyne’s Revenge. (March 1998). Vanity Fair.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West Finalize Divorce, Rapper Must Pay $200K Per Month in Child Support. (November 2022). People.
Anna Murdoch Mann: 'He Was Hard, Ruthless and Determined.' (July 2001). Independent.
The Beauty Who Fell to Earth. (June 2017). Daily Mail.
The War of The Grosses: Inside the Bitter Divorce Battle of the Laguna Beach "Bond King." (November 2018). Town and Country.
Billionaire Bernie Ecclestone Gets $100 Million a Year From His Ex-Wife Slavica. (April 2014). The Sydney Morning Herald.
Steve Wynn Divorce Settlement: Casino Billionaire's Wife To Get $741 Million In Stock. (March 2010). The Huffington Post.
Oklahoma Supreme Court Sides With Oil Tycoon Harold Hamm in $975 Million Divorce Settlement. (April 2015). Insider.