“…The wife did not teach the husband how to swing a golf club. The wife did not teach the husband how to win. The golf swing and the success as a professional golfer which the husband brought into this marriage opened commercial doors during the course of this marriage which would otherwise not have been available…..”
Wife takes $100m bite out of golf’s Great White Shark
By Stephen Foley in New York
Published: 25 June 2007
He may be the one nicknamed the Great White Shark, but it is Greg Norman’s wife who has proved to possess the sharpest teeth in the couple’s acrimonious divorce battle, biting a $100m (£50m) chunk out of the golfing legend’s fortune.
After a bitter one-year battle, the two-times Open Championship winner agreed to the settlement – one of sport’s largest – to spare his new girlfriend, the tennis star Chris Evert, an embarrassing appearance in a Florida courtroom.
Norman has been fighting for 12 months to resist demands that he split his $300m fortune equally with his wife of 25 years. But that all changed when lawyers for Laura Norman threatened to drag Evert into proceedings, demanding to see details of gifts the Wimbledon winner was given by Mr Norman and details of trips she took in his private jet. Evert had been a friend and neighbour of the Normans in Florida, and she has been publicly stepping out with the golfer since her own divorce last year. On a trip to his native Australia, where he is surveying an outpost of his real estate-to-clothing business empire, Norman tried to appear philosophical. “Nobody likes to go through what I’ve gone through, but that’s life and it’s over,” he said. “The terms have been agreed to; let’s move on.”
His assets had included a $35m mansion called Tranquillity in Florida’s celebrity haven, Jupiter Island, a personal jet, a helicopter and a 230ft yacht, as well as business interests that include designing golf courses, golf-themed gated communities for the well-to-do, vineyards and a popular sports clothing range.
Mrs Norman said she had been instrumental in helping her husband leverage his fame on the golf course in these other successful business ventures, serving on the boards of his companies until just last year, giving her a claim to over half his assets. At the same time, she brought up the couple’s two children, Morgan-Leigh, 24, and Gregory, 20. But in legal papers Norman dismissed his wife’s contribution to his fortune, in terms that appeared calculatedly scathing. “The wife did not teach the husband how to swing a golf club. The wife did not teach the husband how to win. The golf swing and the success as a professional golfer which the husband brought into this marriage opened commercial doors during the course of this marriage which would otherwise not have been available.”
What at first looked to be an amicable divorce turned nasty after pictures of Norman and Ms Evert holding hands appeared in newspapers. Gossip columnists in Australia and the US had been salivating at the prospect of a courtroom showdown between the Normans, where many of their friends were to have appeared to discuss the breakdown of their marriage.
Mrs Norman was in court in Stuart, Florida, to hear the settlement being approved, after which she donned her Chanel sunglasses and hit the shops with a friend. Although a minor tax issue – about who must repay write-offs from aeroplanes the couple have owned through their marriage – will have to be settled by a trial in September, Mrs Norman was said to be relieved. Her lawyer, Jack Scarola, added: “She’s very appreciative of the fact she has had a great deal of support from the public.”
Last year, Evert divorced the downhill ski champion Andy Mill, whom she had married in 1988, paying a reputed $7m. They have three adolescent boys.
She had been told to bring letters, gift receipts and other details of her relationship with Norman to a meeting with Mrs Norman’s lawyers, a meeting she will be spared. At her partner’s side, Ms Evert said: “I’m very happy the settlement has come through and we can get on with our lives.”