ICI boss, estranged NRI wife locked in divorce battle

Monthly mortgage payments for 14 mn pounds property main issue


Miller, who is also the chairman of Asia House, a leading pan-Asian organisation in the United Kingdom and his NRI wife Debjani Jash are fighting a legal battle over the monthly mortgage payments for their 14 million pounds ‘super-prime’ property located in central London. Smith, 69,  former Chairman of the ICI lived at the mansion with his second wife, 44-year-old Debjani for just five months before he moved out citing difficulties in their marriage, a court heard.

The pair fell for each other when Debjani was ICI company secretary following the death of Smith’s first wife and married five years ago, briefly reconciled. But city veteran Smith left the home in Kensington, south west London last year while Mrs Miller Smith — known as Molly — continued living there.

He has since filed for divorce citing her alleged unreasonable behaviour, the court heard on Wednesday.

Earlier this year a judge at the High Court ordered the house be sold. Smith’s lawyers said that it was unreasonable for him to have to meet the monthly mortgage payments of 27,000 pounds, and he could not afford to do so. But Debjani is now challenging the ruling at the Appeal court in London, claiming the statement as ‘flawed’ and that he should foot the huge monthly bill.

Value enhanced

Smith’s barrister, John Wilson told the court that the property is ‘super prime’ and its value has been greatly enhanced by recent refurbishment work carried out on it in July making it a 14 million pounds property.

Father of three, Miller Smith’s first wife Dorothy, to whom he was married for 35 years, died of breast cancer in 1999. He began a relationship with Debjani in June 2003 and they were living together months later, marrying in June 2004, said Wilson.
When their relationship began, Smith owned a house in Chester Row while Debjani had a flat in Hampstead, but they pooled their resources and purchased Egerton Terrace for around 6 million pounds.

Last month a decree nisi was granted in Mr and Mrs Miller Smith’s divorce battle, but a decree absolute has not yet been given. Miller Smith joined the ICI board in 1993, became chief executive in 1995 and chairman in 1999. He is credited with steering the group away from its traditional bulk chemicals business and moving into speciality products.

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