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Petra Ecclestone and James Stunt's divorce is granted

  • The warring couple had been gearing up for a court battle over their estimated £5.5billion fortune
  • But they came to an agreement before today's planned legal wrangle and had divorce papers signed at court
  • A previous hearing to evict Mr Stunt from family home was told he'd been abusive and violent during marriage
  • Ms Ecclestone's famous father tells of his relief at the news, as her sister Tamara tells her to stay strong 

By Richard Spillett for MailOnline

Published: 06:27 EDT, 12 October 2017 | Updated: 15:09 EDT, 12 October 2017

The family of Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone have told of their relief after his daughter's acrimonious divorce finally ended at a five-minute court heard.

Petra Ecclestone and her businessman husband James Stunt have been back and forth to court this year as they geared up for a bitter fight over their estimated £5.5billion fortune.

But when their heavyweight legal teams came before a judge again today it emerged the warring pair have agreed what will be one of Britain's biggest ever divorce settlements.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Ecclestone told MailOnline: 'I'm just glad it's over. Petra is too. She has been very tolerant and has been concerned about James.

'Now we are going for a family meal, but we were doing that anyway. No champagne, no big celebration. Just Petra and her sister, me, her mother and the family.' 

Ms Ecclestone's sister Tamara also posted her support online, with an Instagram message reading: 'You're a diamond dear, they can't break you.' 

Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone (pictured earlier this year) and her husband James Stunt have agreed what will be one of Britain's biggest divorce settlements ahead of a planned court battle today
Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone (pictured earlier this year) and her husband James Stunt have agreed what will be one of Britain's biggest divorce settlements ahead of a planned court battle today
Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone and her husband James Stunt (pictured, left, earlier this year) have agreed what will be one of Britain's biggest divorce settlements ahead of a planned court battle today
Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone and her husband James Stunt (pictured, left, earlier this year) have agreed what will be one of Britain's biggest divorce settlements ahead of a planned court battle today

Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone (left) and her husband James Stunt (pictured, left in right image, earlier this year) have agreed what will be one of Britain's biggest divorce settlements ahead of a planned court battle today

The couple, pictured together in 2015, married in Italy six years ago and had homes in Los Angeles and London's Chelsea
The couple, pictured together in 2015, married in Italy six years ago and had homes in Los Angeles and London's Chelsea

The couple, pictured together in 2015, married in Italy six years ago and had homes in Los Angeles and London's Chelsea

Tamara posted this picture on Instagram this afternoon in an apparent message to her sister that the worst was now over
Tamara posted this picture on Instagram this afternoon in an apparent message to her sister that the worst was now over

Tamara posted this picture on Instagram this afternoon in an apparent message to her sister that the worst was now over

Neither Ms Ecclestone, 28, or Mr Stunt were in court for the short hearing, and details of how their assets will be split have not been made public. 

Mr Stunt said after the hearing: 'I am devastated that my marriage has broken down. I love Petra and our children.'

He said the couple's 'most important responsibility' was now 'being mother and father to our wonderful children'.

Despite a bad-tempered court hearing earlier this year, at which Mr Stunt clashed with Ms Ecclestone's father, a representative for the 35-year-old said he wants to remain 'firm friends' with his now-ex-wife.

At the heated court hearing earlier this year, a judge heard how Mr Stunt had been abusive, violent and took overdoses during his marriage to the glamorous heiress.

The judge warned the pair that being locked in long-running litigation over the split would only make matters worse for all involved.

On being told the parties had come to an agreement today, Judge Robin Tolson QC said: 'I'm delighted about that and I congratulate both parties.'

Philip Cayford QC, representing Mr Stunt, said: 'Clearly both parties have come to agreement which is an extremely desirable outcome.'  

Ms Ecclestone's famous father, Bernie, had attended a previous divorce hearing after heavyweight lawyers were brought in to battle the big-money case
Ms Ecclestone's famous father, Bernie, had attended a previous divorce hearing after heavyweight lawyers were brought in to battle the big-money case
Ms Ecclestone and her daughter after a previous court hearing
Ms Ecclestone and her daughter after a previous court hearing

Ms Ecclestone's famous father, Bernie, had attended a previous divorce hearing after heavyweight lawyers were brought in to battle the big-money case. He said his family were relieved the legal battle had finally come to an end today

The tycoon's family have planned a meal together tonight as they recover from a difficult year while the feud bubbled on
The tycoon's family have planned a meal together tonight as they recover from a difficult year while the feud bubbled on

The tycoon's family have planned a meal together tonight as they recover from a difficult year while the feud bubbled on

Mr Stunt was forced to move out of the couple's Chelsea mansion following a court hearing earlier this year
Mr Stunt was forced to move out of the couple's Chelsea mansion following a court hearing earlier this year

Mr Stunt was forced to move out of the couple's Chelsea mansion following a court hearing earlier this year

From a blind date to a London courtroom: How couple's relationship unfolded

2006: The couple go on a blind date after being set up by friends

2007: James 'meets the parents' and spends time with Bernie Ecclestone on days out including the races and Formula One events

2009: The couple are frequently spotted out and about on the socialite scene with Petra's sister Tamara

2011: They wed in a £12million ceremony at an Italian castle surrounded by pop stars and celebrities

2013: Daughter Lavinia is born

2015: Two more children follow when Petra gives birth to twin sons James Jr and Andrew

2017: Judge approves first stage of divorce.

The out-of-court settlement meant a two-day public hearing to decide who should get what after their split was avoided.

Ms Ecclestone and Mr Stunt had been expected to fight over their £158million mansion in Los Angeles and a Grade II-listed home in London's Chelsea, worth up to £100million.

At a hearing earlier this year, the family court was told Mr Stunt had signed a prenuptial agreement worth £16million.

The pair had hired some of the country's most high profile divorce lawyers to represent them as they fought over how to divide their wealth. 

Ms Ecclestone's legal team included Baroness Fiona Shackleton, who represented Sir Paul McCartney in his divorce battle with Heather Mills.

Ms Ecclestone's lawyers instigated an earlier hearing to force her estranged husband to move out of their 14-bedroom home in Chelsea so she and their three children could live there.

The said Stunt was seeking to hijack divorce proceedings 'for a wholly improper collateral purpose'. 

Speaking earlier this year, Mr Ecclestone said his daughter had 'suffered an awful lot' and that he 'couldn't bear for her to suffer any more'.

He added: 'She left there a few months ago when she couldn't take any more. He is refusing to leave. The judge told him to leave by Friday. I am sure he will because, if not, it is an order of the court and the police will make sure he goes'. 

Among the couple's homes is this lavish £10million mansion in Chelsea, west London
Among the couple's homes is this lavish £10million mansion in Chelsea, west London

Among the couple's homes is this lavish £10million mansion in Chelsea, west London

They also had a £65million property in Los Angeles, called The Manor, pictured, which was said to have been put up for sale last year for £150million
They also had a £65million property in Los Angeles, called The Manor, pictured, which was said to have been put up for sale last year for £150million

They also had a £65million property in Los Angeles, called The Manor, pictured, which was said to have been put up for sale last year for £150million

Mr Stunt was later pictured smoking a cigarette and clutching two blue china cats as a cavalcade of cars swept him away from the property. 

A Lamborghini, one of a fleet of luxury cars he owns, was driven behind by one of his entourage. 

The businessman, who runs an international gold bullion firm, assets were also said to include a wine collection worth up to £15million and two Chelsea properties worth up to £4million each, a previous hearing was told.

The couple are believed to have first met on a blind date in 2006. They married six years ago at a multi-million-pound ceremony at Odescalchi Castle, Rome, when they and 350 guests were entertained by an array of pop stars. They have three children together, aged between four and two. 

The signing of the decree nisi means the couple will be able to apply for a decree absolute in six weeks, officially ending the marriage. 

Who had what? Failed union built on two huge fortunes

Petra created fashion label FORM aged just 19 in 2007, which was sold in shops including Harrods, but the label collapsed and was liquidated 14 months later.

She also launched accessories line Stark in 2011 and is believed to have a property portfolio valued at more than £130million.

Petra also stands to inherit from her mega-rich father, Bernie. He worked his way up from selling motorcycle parts to car racing, before taking over a racing team after a number of accidents.

Mr Stunt is known for his fleet of luxury cars, including this Lamborghini, as well as his huge collection of art and fine wine
Mr Stunt is known for his fleet of luxury cars, including this Lamborghini, as well as his huge collection of art and fine wine

Mr Stunt is known for his fleet of luxury cars, including this Lamborghini, as well as his huge collection of art and fine wine

Stunt, a 35-year-old businessman, rarely goes out without his cavalcade of Rolls Royces, Range Rovers and other supercars
Stunt, a 35-year-old businessman, rarely goes out without his cavalcade of Rolls Royces, Range Rovers and other supercars

Stunt, a 35-year-old businessman, rarely goes out without his cavalcade of Rolls Royces, Range Rovers and other supercars

From the 1970s, he was one of the main forces behind Formula One, turning the sport in the globally-recognised institution it is today. In the process, he is said to have become extremely wealthy, with his worth estimated at £2.5billion.

Mr Stunt's finances are less easily to estimate. The Stunt & Co website says only that he has been involved with 'highly successful ventures in the gambling, art, mining and transcontinental shipping industries'.

Unusually, the share capital for Stunt & Co, and another company he owns, Stunt Acquisitions, has been funded by two unnamed works of art, one for each company, worth £4.4 million and £3.5 million.

Accounts up to June 2016 show Stunt & Co had a turnover of £43.5 million but made a loss of £842,000. For the same period, Stunt Acquisitions, which concerns Mr Stunt's art dealing, saw its net worth fall from £2.78 million to £1.89 million.

Ms Ecclestone's family are said to have paid for the couple's  $85 million (£65million) mansion in Beverley Hills.

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