Dale Vince a green energy entrepreneur founder of a multi million pound eco electricity company is fighting his ex-wife’s claim for maintenance 20 years after they divorced claims that he had none of his current wealth when he split from his wife Kathleen Wyatt in 1992.
Mr Vince, who now lives in an 18th century fort in Stroud worth more than £3m, is fighting his ex wife’s claim for maintenance after the High Court refused to strike out her claim for financial support and ordered him to pay £125,000 towards her legal costs.
Ms Wyatt, 53, who had a daughter from a previous relationship had met Mr Vince in 1981 and lived together in North Staffordshire surviving mainly on benefits. They split in 1984 and when Ms Wyatt divorced him in 1992 Mr Vince was not ordered to pay any maintenance then because he was broke at the time, London’s Civil Appeal Court heard.
They parted shortly after their son Dane was born and Mr Vince took up a nomadic lifestyle, living in a trailer. He then set up a wind energy business Ecotricity Limited with his new girlfriend from the trailer, which developed into the multi-million pound business that it is today and earned him an OBE, for services to the environment. The company has won numerous awards, including 'Company of the Year' at the Growing Business Awards in 2011. The company supplies energy to more than 70,000 customers and had a turnover of more than £44m in 2010-2011.
Mr Vince’s barrister said that from a modest beginning, with the creation of a wind turbine to power a trailer in which he and his partner were living, the business developed into a considerable enterprise.
Mr Vince has disputed his ex wife’s claims that they repeatedly rekindled their relationship up until the early 1990s. The court also heard he had made a full disclosure of his finances to the Child Support Agency (CSA) in 1996.
But Ms Wyatt said that Mr Vince had only provided small amounts of 'pocket money' and three very old cars for his son and step daughter up until 2001. Ms Wyatt’s barrister told the court Ms Wyatt had heard her former husband’s business was taking off in the mid-nineties but said her children had been pressured by him not to tell her about it.
The court heard the couple was leading a very contrasting life style as Ms Wyatt came to the hearing on bus by getting up early to use the bus and sleeping at the bus station. The contrast was described as extreme.
Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Lord Justice Jackson and Lord Justice Tomlinson, reserved judgment on the appeal until a later date. Lord Justice Jackson said that one issue for the court to decide was whether Ms Wyatt's claim was "so old and so stale" that it should not be allowed to proceed.
In case Mr Vince loses, Ms Wyatt’s maintenance claim is expected to be heard by a family judge in June.