A green energy entrepreneur who founded a multi million pound eco-electricity company is fighting his ex-wife’s claim for maintenance 20 years after they divorced.
Ex-new age traveller Dale Vince claimed he had none of his current wealth when he split from his wife Kathleen Wyatt in 1992.
After the pair divorced Mr Vince, 51, took up a nomadic existence as a New Age traveller. He started up a wind energy business from a trailer he was living in which eventually developed into green energy giant Ecotricity Limited. The company supplies energy to more than 70,000 customers and had a turnover of more than £44m in 2010-2011.
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.
The couple met in 1981 when Ms Wyatt, 53, had a daughter from a previous relationship and lived together in North Staffordshire, surviving mainly on benefits. They split up in 1984 and when Ms Wyatt divorced him in 1992 Mr Vince was not ordered to pay any maintenance 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 with his new girlfriend from the trailer, which developed into the multi-million pound business 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.
Mr Vince’s barrister, Martin Pointer QC, said: “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, Philip Cayford QC 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.
He said between 1996 and 1997 Mr Vince achieved a “nil assessment” for contributions by the CSA despite his “apparent wealth”.
He said: “Ms Wyatt repeatedly asked for financial assistance and whether he was going to pay the children more than just pocket money as he was building up his business.
“He treated her with contempt. He said if she could not afford to maintain the children, they could live with him.”
The court heard that the couple now live very different lives as Ms Wyatt came to the hearing by getting up early to use the bus and sleeping at the bus station. The contrast between the pair was described as “extreme.”
Ms Wyatt, a former aid worker, who now lives in Monmouthshire, started a new relationship in 1993 and had two more children, but did not remarry.
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.
If Mr Vince fails in his attempt to strike out his ex-wife’s case, her maintenance claim is expected to be heard by a family judge in June.