14 MARCH 2007

In what could be the world's most expensive marriage split, multi-billionaire Roman Abramovich and his wife Irina have divorced in their native Russia after 15 years together. The announcement comes after increased speculation over the Chelsea Football Club owner's relationship with 24-year-old model Daria Zhukova - who was first linked to him last October and was spotted in Paris with the billionare on Monday.

"Mr and Mrs Abramovich have divorced in Russia on a consensual basis, and have agreed terms in respect of arrangements for their children and a financial settlement," confirmed a spokesman. Roman's "corporate interests, including Chelsea FC, are not affected by the divorce proceedings," he added.

It is not known what share of her husband's £11 billion fortune 39-year-old Irina has won, but the amount is likely to be substantial. She is thought to have used the services of Britain's top divorce lawyer, Raymond Tooth, who she contacted six months ago.

Roman, 40, who has five children with Irina, has built up a property empire that includes a £29 million penthouse in Kensington, a £10 million pad in St Tropez, a £15 million chateaux in France and a 104-acre estate near Moscow worth £8 million. He also has a fleet of mega-yachts, with another worth £100 million on order.

It is the end of a fairytale story for the pair who met when Roman, now the UK's richest man, was virtually penniless, and beautiful blonde Irina was an air stewardess for Aeroflot. They married in 1991 and started their married life in her mother's two-bedroom flat.

A friendship between Roman and Daria, a former girlfriend of Russian tennis ace Marat Safin, first surfaced when she joined him in Barcelona for a Chelsea Champions League match. The glamorous brunette lives in a £1.5 million penthouse next to her father Alexander, a friend of Roman, in West London.

Photo: ©
Roman and Irina, pictured in happier times in 2004, have formally ended their 15-year marriage. The pair, who have five children together, agreed a divorce settlement in RussiaPhoto: © RexClick on photo to enlarge
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