Here are some of the good things about being Sir Paul McCartney: Picassos, Renoirs, choice real estate holdings, sound music investments, a long and durable first marriage, and a boatload of public good will.
Here’s the downside: the loss of his beloved first wife to breast cancer, and a disastrous second marriage to Heather Mills, who tried to use their long and unpleasant divorce case to drag the former Beatle through the mud.
Mills, who lost part of her leg when she was hit by a motorcycle, cast McCartney as an abusive, alcoholic husband who cruelly made fun of her disability. But the ruling published Tuesday by Judge Hugh Bennett made clear her angry assertions rang hollow.
In a devastating indictment of Mills, the judge called her financial claims “exorbitant” and said she had been “less than candid” in her testimony — perhaps only British restraint kept him from calling her an outright liar, for he certainly implied she twisted the truth when convenient.
By contrast, the judge praised McCartney for “consistent, accurate and honest” testimony in the ruling, made public after he rejected Mills’ attempt to block its release.
Calling Mills’ demand of $250 million from McCartney “exorbitant” in light of their four-year marriage, the judge said her claims may have been inflated because of her estranged husband’s stature.
“The wife, for her part, must have felt rather swept off her feet by a man as famous as the husband,” he said. “I think this may well have warped her perception, leading her to indulge in make-believe. The objective facts do not support her case.”
He said Mills, 40, had “unreasonably” expected that she would be able to live the deluxe McCartney lifestyle for the rest of her life even after she divorced the pop star.
‘Me too’ syndrome
“Although she strongly denied it, her case boils down to the syndrome of ‘me too’ or ‘if he has it, I want it too,”’ he wrote in awarding Mills $48.6 million.
Mills maintained she needed $6.4 million a year for herself and her daughter, Beatrice, as well as multi-million dollar properties in London and New York, and money for an office in Brighton, on England’s south coast.
Instead, the judge said Mills could get by on $1.2 million a year and one property, worth $5 million, in London.
The former model also sought millions of dollars in lost income, asserting McCartney had forced her to turn down numerous lucrative business opportunities. But Bennett rejected the claim, saying the former Beatle used his considerable prestige to actively promote his wife’s career, not quash it.
Mills claimed, for example, that McCartney made her turn down a $2 million offer to model bras for Marks & Spencer, the British retail chain. But the judge said there was no evidence to support the claim, which McCartney denied.
McCartney said the couple jointly decided it was not a good idea for Mills to model lingerie while they were having a relationship.
Bennett also said Mills greatly hurt her market value and potential earnings by attacking McCartney during two televised interviews last fall.
“To some extent she is her own worst enemy,” he wrote. “She has an explosive and volatile character.”
“She cannot have done herself any good in the eyes of potential purchasers of her services as a TV presenter, public speaker and a model, by her outbursts in her TV interviews,” he wrote.
The judge did not, however, punish Mills for reportedly dumping a glass of water on McCartney’s lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, in the final hours of the hearing Monday. Shackleton, who represented Prince Charles in his divorce from Princess Diana, emerged with wet hair from the hearing, and Mills joked she had been “baptized” in court.
Still, the ruling gave a sympathetic description of Mills’ childhood, describing how she left home when she was 15 and supported herself with various jobs, beginning work as a model at 17 and soon finding jobs as a television anchor.
The judge also recounted how McCartney, still grieving the loss of his first wife Linda, wore the wedding ring she gave him throughout the early years of his romance with Mills and only removed it when he married Mills.
The 58-page ruling offered an unprecedented public airing of McCartney’s finances — and showed just how far the former Beatle has come since his early days in Liverpool, when the band dreamed of someday scoring a top-10 hit.
McCartney has long been rumored to be pop’s first billionaire. Accounts unveiled Tuesday show him to be short of that goal, but still worth in the neighborhood of $800 million, with choice real estate holdings and an art collection of Picassos, Monets and other masters.
In classic British understatement, the judge described McCartney as someone who “composes, sings and plays musical instruments.”
He wrote how McCartney and his first wife, Linda, lived fairly modestly on Blossom Wood Farm in the village of Peasmarsh for many years and also had a property in London.
In the late 1990s, the judge said, the singer had properties in New York and on Long Island, as well as British properties in Rye, Somerset, Icklesham, Essex and Merseyside.
The judge said it was impossible to put a precise figure on McCartney’s vast financial empire, but said he believed it was worth about $800 million, far less than the $1.6 billion Mills claimed.
“There is absolutely no evidence at all to support that figure, or any figure anywhere near it,” he said.
Among McCartney’s holdings is real estate valued at about $68 million, bank accounts with more than $30 million, investments worth more than $68 million, and paintings, furniture, jewelry, horses and other assets valued at more than $64 million.
McCartney projected his net income for the year to be more than $10.6 million, the judge said.
In a statement to the court, McCartney said much of his current income comes from touring and that while his recent recordings have been well-received by critics, they have not been commercially successful.
He also said he does not have “day to day” control over many of his businesses, but is consulted on key decisions. He said the value of the music copyrights he holds has increased substantially, adding to his net worth.
He also said he wanted to keep all of his art collection because the works were collected before his marriage to Mills.
The court documents said Mills had an appraisal done of the collection that concluded it was worth $140 million, a valuation McCartney rejected. Mills also maintained McCartney gave her 30 of his paintings, an assertion he denied.
“I accept the husband’s evidence,” the judge said. “In my judgment he is entitled to have them back.”