An entrepreneur who moved a Playboy model into his luxury flat is fighting his ex-wife in court after complaining that a divorce judge handed her millions and left him nothing.
Richard Rothschild and Charmaine de Souza had a 21-year relationship after meeting as students, marrying in 2005, having two children and running a thriving west London telecomms business.
The pair led a lavish lifestyle, with Mr Rothschild driving a Lamborghini, while the couple also enjoyed a multi-million dollar condo in an exclusive Miami Beach apartment block.
The pair split in 2016 and first clashed in court in 2018 after Mr Rothschild moved his then girlfriend, Playboy model Sherra Michelle, into the Miami condo.
In December last year, divorce judge Mr Justice Cohen divided their wealth, awarding Ms de Souza, 46, the £1.85m telecoms company BusinessMobiles.com, which is based in Park Royal, West London and they had run together, plus cash and properties worth almost another £1m.
Richard Rothschild (left) moved Playboy model Sherra Michelle (right) into the apartment he once shared with his wife and children, following their split
Mr Rothschild, 45, was given the Miami apartment, which the judge valued at $3million (£2.38m), but which the husband says is worth far less, leaving him effectively with nothing after paying off family debts.
He is now challenging the ‘unfair’ divorce ruling at the Court of Appeal, where his lawyers this week said he had been left ‘with in effect no capital at all, and no income.’
The former couple had waged an earlier court war over the apartment in 2018 after Mr Rothschild moved in his then girlfriend, Miss Michelle, prompting a bid by Ms de Souza to get him jailed for contempt of court.
That clash blew up after Mr Rothschild said the Miami Beach property belonged to him alone, but he was told by a divorce judge in London at that time that he had to share it 50/50 with his ex.
He promised to give up ‘vacant possession’ of the luxury flat, to spend thousands of dollars repairing it and to put it on the rental market.
But instead he continued to stay there himself and also let his then girlfriend Miss Michelle stay, lawyers for his ex said.
The former couple eventually settled their differences over that issue and a year later Mr Justice Cohen split their wealth, handing the business to Ms De Souza and the whole apartment to Mr Rothschild.
Charmaine De Souza, 46, outside London’s Court of Appeal. The judge awarded her the £1.85m Park Royal, west London-based mobile phone business they had run together, plus cash and properties worth almost another £1m
But his barrister Patrick Chamberlayne QC told the Appeal Court that, after debts including about £300,000 in lawyers’ fees for their divorce fight had been paid, the judge’s order left the wife with capital worth £1,760,138, while Mr Rothschild got just £23,938.
And he went on to claim that the position in reality was even worse than that for the husband, arguing that the judge had overvalued the Miami Beach apartment by £615,000, leaving Mr Rothschild with nothing at all from the marriage, while his ex got millions.
‘The husband is left with nothing income wise or capital wise and the wife is left with the means to meet all her needs in the form of this business,’ the barrister said.
He said that the judge had deprived the husband of ‘every penny, everything he has achieved in this 21-year marriage’ and left him without any assets or the ability to meet his needs.
Mr Rothschild is believed to have been formerly known as Richard Pierzchalo-Piasecki, and changed his name on a Companies House record in June 2016.
Mr Chamberlayne argued that the judge had not taken into account Mr Rothschild’s financial needs when he split the couple’s wealth, but only the needs of his ex-wife.
The ‘huge disparity’ in what the former couple ended up with must have been because the judge took into account Mr Rothschild’s ‘conduct’ during the long-running litigation.
Mr Justice Cohen had criticised some of Mr Rothschild’s conduct as ‘lamentable,’ saying he had been ‘vindictive and irrational,’ Mr Chamberlayne told the Appeal Court.
The luxury condo building in Miami containing the apartment owned by Richard Rothschild – the judge valued this at $3million (£2.38m), but the husband says is worth far less, leaving him effectively with nothing after paying off family debts
‘There is no doubt that the husband presented himself to the judge as an unattractive personality, insensitive, over-confident and overbearing,’ the barrister added.
He continued: ‘The overwhelming impression is that the judge sympathised with the wife’s position due to the husband’s behaviour, and it is no part of this appeal that he was not entitled to do so.
‘However, that caused him to lose sight of considering both parties’ needs, and to reach the ultimate draconian outcome – all the net assets and available income go to one party, permanently, and the other party gets nothing, permanently.’
He added: ‘That form of huge disparity has to be explained in terms of conduct, and it is not sufficient for the judge to make in various parts of the judgment statements like ‘the husband has brought this on himself’.’
If the judge was going to punish Mr Rothschild for his conduct during the case, he needed to say that was what he was doing and to make findings about what that conduct entailed, he continued.
The result was a split of ‘obvious unfairnesss’ with the wife’s financial needs taken into account, but not the husband’s.
‘The judge’s rationale for the outcome was that the wife needed the business to provide income to meet her and the children’s needs. She also needed to be largely debt-free,’ he said.
Mr Rothschild presented himself to the judge as an unattractive personality, insensitive, over-confident and overbearing, said a barrister
‘The outcome was indeed that she would be largely debt-free, with a business worth £1.85m, and £18,000 per month net income (£216,000 per annum). The income would also enable her to pay her rent
‘The husband, however, would end up…with in effect no capital at all, and no income.’
He also claimed that an assessment by a local estate agent suggested the judge overvalued the apartment, which was the main asset the husband took out of the marriage, by £615,000.
‘That would take his capital figure down from £23,938 to minus £591,000,’ the QC said.
He added: ‘Given that the husband was already on virtually zero capital (£23,000) on the basis of a $3m sale, the judge should have given proper consideration to what the impact on him would be if the property sold for less.’
Mr Chamberlayne urged Lord Justice Patten, Lord Justice Moylan and Lord Justice Newey to overturn the divorce judge’s order.
But for Ms de Souza, Charles Hale QC argued that the judge got it right.
He said that the disparity in the outcomes for Mr Rothschild and Ms De Souza could be explained by the judge having taken into account their children’s needs.
The judge reserved their decision in the case at the end of a day-long hearing, to be given at a later date.