Bernie Ecclestone and wife Slavica are to divorce after 24 years of marriage, it has been claimed by British newspaper the Daily Mail - and intriguingly, most of the couple's ?2.4 billion fortune is understood to be in her name.

The Formula 1 supremo's Croatian-born wife is reported to have moved out of the Ecclestones' ?10 million marital home in London after the couple grew increasingly apart, with the former's workaholic lifestyle said to be to blame. Mrs Ecclestone is understood to have chosen to move out now as daughters Tamara, 24 and Petra, 19 are no longer living at home, and she is said to have already consulted a divorce lawyer.

"Bernie is totally focused on his work," a source told the newspaper, "but you don't pull yourself up from nowhere to become one of the richest men in the land by being a pussycat."

Most interestingly of all, the Mail reports that Ecclestone had signed over the bulk of his personal fortune to his wife - a 50-year-old, statuesque 6ft 2in former model whom he met at the 1982 Italian Grand Prix - after he made ?1.9 billion from a bond issue in 1999, electing to place the money in off-shore trusts controlled by Slavica. That raises the prospect of a billion-pound divorce battle should the split prove to be final.

"Nearly everything is in her name," another source revealed. "She is non-domiciled in Britain and therefore it made sense for tax reasons."

Aside from their Kensington home, the couple also have a jet and small hotel in Gstaad, Switzerland, and a yacht named Petara after their two daughters. Their marriage has always appeared rock-solid, despite the incessant tabloid and paparazzi interest prompted by their 28-year age gap and ten-inch height difference.

Having now moved into a flat overlooking the Thames, however, Slavica told the Daily Mail: "I don't want to say anything. You can talk to my husband."

"The reason she has moved out is because they are doing building work next door and it is impossible to live in the house," Ecclestone countered. "She can't stand the noise. I don't know if she wants a divorce or not.

"She has moved into an apartment belonging to Petra's boyfriend. We have people in the house taping the noise so we can go to the council to get something done about it."

Ecclestone joked earlier this year that he had asked his wife 'about the possibility of me having a mistress, but she didn't like the idea of that, so I gave it up. It would have been nothing but trouble' [see separate story - click here].

Meanwhile, the 78-year-old has been honoured at a glittering black tie gala dinner in London to mark the second SportBusiness Sports Event Management Awards, as he received the individual Award for Outstanding Contribution to Sports Event Management. This was a result of the pivotal role he played in creating one of the world's most powerful sports properties and developing its global presence and appeal by embracing events beyond its traditional heartlands.

"We were delighted with the response and the quality of the winning entries," enthused Nigel Rushman, chairman of the awards' organisers Rushmans, "which truly reflect the levels of dedication, skill and professionalism which shape the world's major sports events."

"We were again delighted to be an integral part of an event which recognised the fantastic contribution and achievements of the unsung heroes of the sports world," added Phil Savage, publishing director of title sponsors SportBusiness Group, when reflecting on the 150 entries from individuals and organisations worldwide.

"Spectators at live events or on television may take excellent event organisation and presentation for granted, yet in reality every event is the result of meticulous planning, technical innovation and a creative approach to solving problems which may, at first, appear insurmountable."


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