Trinny Woodall's 'nightmare' £300,000 divorce battle from beyond the grave: Fashion guru's bizarre High Court battle over her dead ex-husband's debts
- Woodall owed annual maintenance payments of £24,000 plus £1.4 million
- But husband was declared bankrupt before divorce settlement was agreed
- Earlier this year the settlement was invalidated by another judge
- Creditors are now chasing makeover stars for debt her husband owed
Fashion guru Trinny Woodall is locked in a ‘nightmare’ £300,000 legal battle over the debts of her ex-husband, Johnny Elichaoff – who died two years ago
Fashion guru Trinny Woodall is locked in a ‘nightmare’ £300,000 legal battle over the debts of her ex-husband – who died two years ago.
The makeover star, who is dating millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi, is fighting a bizarre High Court bid to make her responsible for the debts of former rock drummer Johnny Elichaoff, who killed himself by jumping from a car park roof.
The couple had agreed a divorce settlement after their ten-year marriage ended in 2009, in which Mr Elichaoff would make annual maintenance payments of £24,000 and repay £1.4 million she had lent him.
Ms Woodall never received a penny and, in 2014 the drummer turned businessman took his own life, aged 55, from the car park at the Whiteley’s shopping centre in Bayswater, West London, after a series of failed oil investments.
It later emerged that Mr Elichaoff, who battled painkiller addiction for 20 years, had been declared bankrupt shortly before the divorce settlement was agreed.
Neither Ms Woodall nor the judge who rubber-stamped the settlement were made aware of the bankruptcy at the time – and earlier this year the settlement was invalidated by another judge.
Now, in what is thought to be an unprecedented case, creditors owed nearly £300,000 by Mr Elichaoff’s estate claim Ms Woodall should have been paying him maintenance when their marriage ended.
As a result, they are chasing the TV presenter and entrepreneur in an ‘innovative’ High Court action for the money to settle Mr Elichaoff’s debts.
The famously blunt fashion adviser, who now appears on ITV’s This Morning as its style expert, married the ex-rock musician in 1999. As a drummer, Mr Elichaoff had toured the world in bands supporting Siouxsie Sioux and U2. Later he became a manager for the bands Fairground Attraction and Tears For Fears.
He and Ms Woodall had a daughter, Lyla, now 12, before they divorced on good terms. Ms Woodall, 52, was earning about £350,000 a year when she and her fellow fashionista Susannah Constantine were at the height of their What Not To Wear fame in the mid-2000s, though she had taken a break from television at the time of her divorce and her income had fallen.
A High Court judge ruled in March that the divorce settlement had not been valid because of the bankruptcy order. Despite this, the judge refused to allow the official trustee in Mr Elichaoff’s bankruptcy to ‘step into his shoes’ and pursue Miss Woodall to get her to pay his outstanding £285,000 debts, plus legal fees. The judge’s ruling is now being contested by the officially appointed trustee, Ian Robert. A decision on whether an appeal can go ahead is expected within days.
The makeover star is currently dating millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi
Ms Woodall’s spokesman said: ‘This is a nightmare for an innocent spouse who received nothing on divorce, yet years later is sued by a trustee in bankruptcy, asserting an unheard- of claim to spousal rights of her deceased ex-husband.’
In arguments at the High Court last week, Ms Woodall’s barrister, Caroline Hely Hutchinson, said Mr Robert had no standing in law to bring a ‘personal claim’ on behalf of her late ex-husband. She said any such right would have died with the businessman when he committed suicide, and added: ‘These debts have been accrued post-separation.’
But barrister James Pickering, acting for Mr Robert, said Mr Elichaoff ought to have been granted at least a six-figure sum from Miss Woodall in their divorce settlement.
He said: ‘At the time, the bankrupt [Mr Elichaoff] was relatively poor and had little or no assets or income. Miss Woodall, on the other hand, was relatively wealthy and had capital resources approaching £1.5 million and a six-figure annual income.’ He added: ‘In short, despite the clear financial imbalance between them, no financial provision was agreed in the bankrupt’s favour.’
He argued that Mr Elichaoff’s entitlement to support from his ex-wife was ‘property’ that passed on to his trustee and could still be chased.
Mr Elichaoff owed much of the money to the leading independent Westminster School over unpaid rent on a flat.
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