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Judge mulls arguments over mansion in Saudi royals’ divorce

March 5, 2019

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A Delaware judge is mulling whether to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Saudi prince in a dispute with his ex-wife over a mansion they bought in Beverly Hills, California, before their divorce.

The judge heard arguments Tuesday in a complaint filed last year by Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud against his former wife, Princess Fahdah Husain Abdulrahman Al-Athel.

The prince wants to prevent his ex-wife from selling the property without his consent. He also says he is owed about $42 million that he loaned the Delaware limited liability company they formed to buy the property, and that she has mismanaged the estate and failed to pay employees, resulting in several lawsuits.

The princess, also referred to in court documents as Ms. Alathel, argues that she was never a manager of New Generation Ideas LLC, and that the Delaware court has no jurisdiction over her.

Steven Caponi, an attorney for the princess, suggested that when she signed documents related to the LLC, she may have not have understood what she was signing but was instead just being subservient to her husband.

“This was not a business. ... This was a husband and wife. This was a wife in Saudi Arabia,” Caponi said. “Women in Saudi Arabia are not exactly on equal footing. My client was just being a housewife.”

The princess also argues that the case should be dismissed or halted in favor of an earlier petition she filed in the Cayman Islands to dissolve a corporation that is the sole member of the LLC and to liquidate its assets.

Jason Jowers, an attorney for the prince, noted that the princess had admitted in a Cayman Islands court filing that she is a director of the LLC. He also argued that the prince should be allowed to continue pursuing his lawsuit in Delaware because his claims are different than those raised by his ex-wife in the Cayman Islands action, where the LLC is not listed as a party.

Jowers said the two former spouses won’t be able to move on until a court determines whether the prince did indeed loan $42 million to the LLC to renovate the property or whether, as Caponi argued, “It was simply two married people spending their joint funds improving their joint marital residence.”

According to court records, the only asset of the LLC is the California estate, which was purchased in 2011 for about $16.9 million. According to online property records, the mansion measures more than 27,000 square feet (2,058 square meters), with at least 18 bedrooms and more than two dozen bathrooms.

A Cayman Islands court has ordered the former spouses to submit independent appraisals of the property by the end of the month.

“There’s a very huge delta between what each party things this property is worth,” Caponi said.

The prince has suggested that the property is worth less than the $42 million he loaned to the LLC, while his wife believes it is worth significantly more.

The couple married in 2001. Their divorce was finalized in Saudi Arabia in 2016.

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