Elin Nordegren could be paid more than $50 million extra for sticking with Tiger Woods
The wife of Tiger Woods will miss out on more than $50 million if she pursues a legal split because of his string of affairs, top American divorce lawyers have revealed.
By Philip Sherwell in New York
Published: 5:30PM GMT 19 Dec 2009
Golfer Tiger Woods poses with wife Elin Nordengren Photo: GETTY
Raoul Felder, a celebrity divorce attorney whose client roster has included the former wives of Martin Scorsese and Tom Clancy, said that Elin Nordegren would be "financially ill-advised" to walk out on the philandering golfer for good.
Miss Nordegren, 29, was widely reported last week to be "100 per cent" set on a divorce and in line to receive in excess of $100 million in one of sport's most expensive separations.
But Mr Felder said that if she divorced her husband now, she would only be entitled under Florida law to the sum agreed in the prenuptial agreement before the couple married in 2004 – believed to be $20 million. Woods would also have to pay child support for their two-year-old daughter and baby son.
By contrast, her legal team started negotiating a lucrative postnuptial deal just days after the sex scandal surrounding her husband erupted three weeks ago. Lawyers familiar with the talks said she could be paid up to an additional $55 million to remain with Woods, 33, for just two more years – a figure that may well have risen further as up to 14 alleged mistresses emerged.
"If this is a financial calculation, then I don't think you will see her seeking a divorce," he said. "If she left now, she would only get the prenup deal. You normally don't get extra reparations for adultery or humiliation."
Miss Nordegren has moved out of the family home in a gated community near Orlando and is expected to fly to her homeland of Sweden with the children for Christmas. But if she leaves her husband permanently, it will be because of principle not profit.
Speculation that she might pocket colossal sums from a divorce has been fuelled by reports that she was consulting with Sorrell Trope, one of Hollywood's most formidable divorce lawyers.
Unlike Florida, California is a "shared property state" where all income generated during a marriage – several hundred million dollars in Woods' case – is subject to a 50:50 split in a divorce. But even though they own a property in California, neither the golfer or his wife are residents of the state, so she could not pursue divorce proceedings against him there.
Robert Wallack, a prominent divorce attorney whose clients have included supermodel Christie Brinkley and hip hop impresario Damon Dash, said that he believed Mr Trope would be brought on board to add some heavy hitting power to her negotiating team. "The circumstances present her with a golden opportunity to renegotiate her deal in an extremely favourable manner," he said.
The regular leaks from "close friends" of Miss Nordegren that she was intent on divorce – and her willingness to be pictured without her wedding ring – could also be part of that bargaining strategy, lawyers said.
Mr Trope, 82, who has represented stars from Cary Grant to Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Britney Spears, did not return a request from comment from The Sunday Telegraph.
"He is vastly-experienced and respected divorce lawyer sought out by celebrities because of his prominence and expertise and also his experience in handling sensitive high net-worth cases," Mr Wallack said.
Woods is not known to have recruited a specialist in matrimonial law to his own legal advisers since the controversy erupted but he is "doing everything he can to save his marriage", according to a Team Tiger insider quoted on the TMZ website.
And there is also a strong financial motivation for Woods to persuade Miss Nordegren to remain his wife, even if she ends up leaving him in the future with a much bigger payout than she would receive if they parted ways now.
For as his agent and managers try to restore his battered image and salvage some of the endorsement deals that made him the world's first billion-dollar earning athlete, even the pretence of maintaining his marriage will help.
Woods has not been seen since in public he was taken to hospital on Nov 27 with facial lacerations after he crashed his car near his Florida mansion, reportedly pursued by his aggrieved wife brandishing a golf club.
In the first apparent sightings since that mysterious middle-of-the-night accident, neighbours in the gated community outside Orlando said that he was seeking solace hitting golf balls in the evening on a floodlit range near his home.
Although wife is considering whether to stand by him and some sponsors have already dropped him, Woods does still have some high-profile defenders – it is just that their endorsements may not be the most welcome given their own chequered private lives.
Rudolph Giuliani, the thrice-married former New York mayor who moved out of his official residence after announcing he was leaving his second wife for his mistress, was the latest famous adulterer to proffer his support.
"He's going through a tough period," said the fellow golf enthusiast last week. At an early stage in my [golfer] son's career, he was very kind and nice to him. He's a very, very fine man ... We know he's going to get through it."
Donald Trump, another golf lover, has predicted that Woods will emerge "hotter than ever". The tycoon, who began seeing Marla Maples while still married to his first wife, Ivana, was gushing in his backing.
"[He's] a great athlete ... one of the greatest athletes in the world. He's had a very interesting and traumatic couple of weeks [but] he's a wonderful guy."
P Diddy, the rap and design mogul whose long term girlfriend left him after reports he fathered a child with another woman, tweeted: "Ye without sin cast the 1st stone!!!! Put down your rocks sinner!!!!! Tiger keep your head up! God bless your fam Black man!" Ray J, a rapper most famous for a widely-distributed sex tape with his then actress girlfriend Kim Kardashian, offered some male solidarity.
"Let Tiger Woods be a man," he told Fox News. "Sometimes you're a man and you have a bad night. Let that man be a man."
And Snoop Dogg, a veteran of the often misogynist world of rap music, saved his fire for the various former paramours of Woods. "I'm just disgusted with all these women that keep popping up," he told Esquire. "What do they think- they're gonna get points? That just despicable, you whore."
But, doubtless at the orders of his exasperated management team, Woods is not taking calls from two former hard-partying friends and former basketball stars, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan.
"I've been trying to reach him and can't get him. It's very frustrating," said Barkley, who has drink driving offences to his name. One alleged mistress, lingerie model Jamie Jungers, told Radaronline that she gambled in Las Vegas with Woods and Barkley, who she said was part of the golfer's "billionaire boys club" of A-list athletes.
In a round-table sports show to be broadcast today, Barkley says he just wanted to tell Woods: "Hey, man, We love you ... You should reach out to your celebrity friends when things go bad. They're the only people who understand.
"I have been disappointed with the people who are around him. They have got him so locked up. I know myself and Michael [Jordan] have been trying to get to him. You need to know in times like this you have got friends."
Jordan, with whom Woods has played golf for more than a decade, ended up divorced having tried to buy the silence of a mistress after what his lawyers said was an extortion demand.
On the same programme, director Spike Lee also expressed his concern that Woods was out of touch. "He's insulated. If Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan can't get to him, and those are his boys, then people are making bad moves," Lee said.
Meanwhile, in yet another financial blow, the luxury Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer said on Friday that it was dropping from its US advertising campaigns. The management consultancy Accenture has axed him completely and Gillette has also cut back on using his once clean-cut image.
In the latest Davie Brown Index, which ranks a celebrity's ability to influence consumers, Woods had plummeted to 2,252nd place, down from No 96 before the scandal erupted. But it will be Miss Nordegren's decision on divorce that determines whether he has hit rock bottom.
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