THEY are the definition of vulgar rich.
A couple who spent £12million on their wedding, decked out one of their homes with three hair salons and a nightclub, and angered neighbours by travelling everywhere in a convoy of gas-guzzling supercars.
Petra Ecclestone and James Stunt could break the record books with their divorce settlement[/caption]
James Stunt gives the finger leaving the High Court following legal proceedings[/caption]
But the union between heiress Petra Ecclestone and playboy James Stunt hit an unedifying low this week as their messy break-up got its first public airing.
In scenes more suited to The Jeremy Kyle Show than high society, a court heard allegations that Stunt had been abusive, violent and taken overdoses.
At one point the 35-year-old barged into his father-in-law, ex-Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, 86, and called him a c***.
The case is likely to lead to a divorce and the “biggest settlement in celebrity history”. The couple share a £5.5billion fortune, with assets including a £158million LA mansion and a £100million home in Chelsea, West London, at stake.
The most high-profile divorce lawyers in the country have been hired. One of them, Baroness Fiona Shackleton, who represented Sir Paul McCartney in his divorce from Heather Mills, is in 28-year-old Petra’s corner.
Stunt laughed, scoffed, lolled and panted his way through the hour-long preliminary hearing. He was asked by the judge to stop gesticulating as it was “very distracting”.
Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and daughter Petra outside the High Court[/caption]
Bernie was allegedly called a ‘c***’ by James Stunt when the judge’s ruling went against him[/caption]
The court heard Stunt “strongly disputes” allegations made by his wife.
After being ordered to immediately leave their £75million marital home so Petra — who has been living in a rented three-bedroom house since February — could move back in, manic Stunt flounced out of court, giving the finger to photographers.
Petra has made allegations that Stunt was abusive during their marriage[/caption]
The judge ruled in favour of Petra staying in the marital home[/caption]
He was last night preparing to “slum it” in a rented, £8,750 a week, £25million, West London town house.
Stunt’s relationship with Barbie-like Petra has been characterised by lavish spending and poor taste — so perhaps it is little wonder it has come to this.
The couple met on a blind date set up by friends when Petra was just 17. She was a self-confessed loner who had never had a serious relationship, while he was a Lamborghini-driving playboy who once dated Harrods heiress Camilla Fayed.
Petra walked down the aisle in 2011 at the 15th century Odescalchi Castle in Tuscany, Italy — the same venue that hosted Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ doomed nuptials in 2006 — wearing an £80,000 Vera Wang dress.
Petra on her wedding day in a £80,000 Vera Wang dress[/caption]
Fireworks explode over Odescalchi Castle in Rome to mark the wedding between Petra Ecclestone and James Stunt[/caption]
The 350 guests in an air-conditioned marquee were served £4,000-a-bottle Chateau Petrus wine while they were entertained by Eric Clapton, Black Eyed Peas and DJ David Guetta.
Even billionaire Bernie, who picked up the bill, said the cost was “absurd”.
Since then, Stunt has transformed himself from scruffy oaf to perma-tanned man-about-town in tailored suits and with slicked-back hair.
As the son of a publishing director, he had a privileged upbringing. But it remains a mystery exactly how he made his fortune, which was once said to be £3.3billion.
James stunt drives through Central London in a Lamborghini – one of his fleet of supercars[/caption]
James Stunt travels with a fleet of bomb proof supercars[/caption]
He signed a prenuptial agreement worth £16million and his fortune includes a wine collection worth up to £15million and two £4million apartments in Chelsea.
Despite one rumour that he made his money on a single bet, he is believed to have used his father’s money to invest in shipping, before moving into the gaming industry.
He has also been involved in mining — predominantly gold — private finance and, more recently, in trading art.
But he has also presided over a string of unsuccessful companies which have been struck off. While there is no evidence of wrongdoing, financial experts say that some of his dealings are “unorthodox”.
£158 million Los Angeles getaway called The Manor is one of the disputed assets[/caption]
£75 million Chelsea pile is part of the £5.5billion fortune being contested[/caption]
No one is more sceptical about Stunt’s financial situation than Bernie, who has called James a “flash b*****d” and insisted on having him “well and truly checked out” before he married his daughter.
A source close to the family has said: “Bernie doesn’t know where the money comes from and James doesn’t say. Bernie knows he does business buying and selling but has never actually met anybody who’s ever heard of James in the art world.”
Stunt is a consummate show-off and said to be viciously rude.
During business meetings it is claimed he sits on a gilded throne, and he thinks nothing of spending £20,000 on champagne for pals in nightclubs, despite not drinking himself. He is renowned for travelling in a convoy of posh cars with private plates, which he parks outside luxury shops and art galleries, to the dismay of his Chelsea neighbours.
Petra and Stunt in happier times during their 6 year marriage[/caption]
The couple kiss in Monaco at the F1 Grand Prix a year after they wed[/caption]
His £1million fleet includes two bullet and bomb-proof Rolls-Royces and he is always accompanied by a presidential-style gang of bodyguards. Questions have been asked as to exactly why he feels the need for such heavy security.
When it comes to flashiness, Stunt, who has been known to wear make-up, met his match in glamorous Petra.
The pair bought The Manor in Los Angeles, a £158million property originally built to the specifications of Hollywood producer Aaron Spelling’s wife, Candy. She reportedly showed the architect a postcard of Buckingham Palace and said: “Build me this.”
The 123-room house features parking for 100 cars, a bowling alley, massage room and a walk-in wardrobe so big it has a staircase to another floor.
Stunt and Petra during their engagement a year before they married[/caption]
The couple have been described in court during divorce proceedings as ‘regrettable’[/caption]
Petra lives a life of luxury, as underlined by an Instagram photo posted by her equally spoilt sister Tamara, 33. It showed Petra enjoying a full-body pampering session as four beauticians worked on her simultaneously. Tamara captioned it: “It takes a village . . .”
Although she insists she is a “hard-working girl”, Petra has barely finished a recognisable day’s work in her life.
She won a place at London art school Central Saint Martins but never took it up, then had a go at designing menswear with her Form range. It went bust within 14 months, after she got “tired of the grind of having to oversee it”.
She also ditched her luxury handbag business, Stark, which racked up £4.2million in debts. While her unimaginably wealthy lifestyle may be the envy of many, Petra has often bemoaned her lot.
The couple had signed a prenuptial agreement worth £16million before they married[/caption]
Petra Ecclestone is being represented by top divorce solicitor Fiona Shackleton[/caption]
She has complained about “hostility towards the [Ecclestone] surname” and whined about criticism she gets for her unearned wealth.
She once said: “There’s only so much apologising I can do for something I don’t need to apologise about . . . I’m going to spend it and I’m going to enjoy it.”
One of her fiercest critics is her dad, who has publicly reprimanded his daughters for squandering his £2.5billion fortune on fast cars, mansions and designer clothing.
An outrageously wealthy and outspoken despot with many enemies, Bernie’s mantra for dealing with rivals is: “Don’t threaten, just do.” In January he was finally ousted from his position as F1 boss after 50 years in the hot seat.
Fiona Shackleton represented Liam Gallagher during his divorce proceedings in 2015[/caption]
Mrs Shackleton can be seen here with Mandy Gray who divorced Randy Work, a former key executive in Texas-based private equity company Lone Star[/caption]
He made headlines in recent years for publicly expressing his admiration for Adolf Hitler getting things done, and Vladimir Putin. He later apologised for any offence over his remarks about Hitler.
In 2014 he appeared in Germany on trial for bribery then paid £64million to the court to settle the case, not admitting the allegations.
Although only 5ft 3in, Bernie is a ruthless negotiator feared by many. He divorced his daughters’ model mother, Slavica, 59, in 2009 and has been married to 39-year-old Fabiana Flosi since 2012.
But he has none of his daughters’ expensive tastes, preferring beer and crisps to champagne and caviar, and is horrified by Petra’s legal showdown with Stunt. He said yesterday: “She has suffered an awful lot and I couldn’t bear for her to suffer any more. I don’t like to see marriages broken up unnecessarily, she tolerated it for quite a long time. He has caused enough aggravation.”
Petra (left) is joined by her sister Tamara Ecclestone at an F1 charity bash[/caption]
Tamara Ecclestone and her husband Jay Rutland outside Kensington and Chelsea Registry office[/caption]
The Ecclestone family’s Bambino Trust, run by Bernie, owns the mansion Stunt has been ordered out of. Bernie said that Stunt is “not a quiet-natured guy — he explodes for very little”.
He added: “He thinks I was behind Petra leaving him and it’s completely the opposite. I don’t want to see a marriage broken up.”
Stunt has expressed his desire for him and Petra to “work through our difficulties”, insisting that the marriage is not necessarily over.
But as regular viewers of The Jeremy Kyle Show know, with this much dirty laundry, there is rarely a happy ending.
ALEC and JOCELYN WILDENSTEIN (Payout: £4.2billion, 1999)
New York art dealer Alec got so worked up during his break-up from the plastic surgery-obsessed Jocelyn that he was charged with threatening her with a gun.
As part of the eventual settlement, Jocelyn was given £750,000 a month to run her household, as she had become so dependent on staff during her marriage that she was unable to boil an egg.
ADNAN and SORAYA KHASHOGGI (£1.7billion, 1980)
The couple’s daughter, Nabila, was so shocked by the revelations that came out in court during their divorce – including Soraya’s alleged affair with Winston Churchill’s grandson – that she attempted suicide.
SILVIO BERLUSCONI and VERONICA LARIO (£1.6million a month, 2014)
Veronica broke the silence she had kept during her 20-year marriage to the former Italian PM by publicly berating him for “the umpteenth lie” he had told about his flings.
She added: “I can no longer stop him from making himself look ridiculous in front of the world.”
STEVE and ELAINE WYNN (£846million, 2010)
Las Vegas casino mogul Steve and business partner Elaine had already divorced after 23 years together in 1986. Their second marriage, in 1991, ended the same way – only with a bigger bill.
Steve described the split and ensuing legal fallout as being like 1989 Michael Douglas film War Of The Roses, which centres on a bitter divorce battle.
*payouts have been adjusted for inflation