Mother-of-two wins £1.4m payout from multimillionaire ex

Mother-of-two, 54, wins £1.4m payout from her multimillionaire ex after she told High Court he promised her share of his fortune in letters written when he was in jail for mortgage fraud 24 years ago

  • Nicola Oberman’s partner Shaun Collins was jailed in 1997 for false accounting
  • Couple continued dating while Mr Collins was in prison and he sent her letters outlining a business they would be equal partners in
  • After release they built property empire and had two children, but never married
  • After split, Ms Oberman insisted she co-owned 40 Kent and London properties 
  • High Court judge ruled Mr Collins must buy Ms Oberman’s £1.4m share

A mother has won a £1.4m payout from her tycoon ex after telling a judge he promised her a share of his millions in letters written from prison over two decades ago.

Nicola Oberman, 54, had two kids with estate agent turned multimillionaire buy-to-let mogul Shaun Collins, but the pair never married.

Ms Oberman stuck by Mr Collins, 53, in 1997 when he was jailed for false accounting, despite having only been together for a year at the time.

In letters from behind bars, he promised her she would be an equal partner in the property empire he dreamed of building on his release.

Mr Collins later realised his dreams, building up a multimillion-pound portfolio of more than 40 properties in London and Kent over their years together.

The High Court has ruled Nicola Oberman (pictured), 53, must be paid £1.4m for her share of a property empire by her ex-partner Shaun Collins, a multimillionaire buy-to-let mogul, after it found she was an equal owner of a string of more than 40 Kent and London properties built up over their 22 years together

The pair had only been dating a year in 1997 when then-estate agent Mr Collins (pictured) was jailed six months for false accounting, London’s High Court heard

But after the pair split in 2015, Mr Collins denied she was a joint partner and insisted that he did ‘virtually everything’ in the business, while Ms Oberman had been a ‘stay at home mother’ who ‘did not like working’.

Now a judge at London’s High Court has ruled that Mr Collins must pay his ex £1.4million to buy her out of the joint business through which most of their portfolio was held.

During a trial last year, the court heard lawyers for Ms Oberman argue that flats, houses and shops had been bought as part of a business of which Mr Collins had promised she would be a joint partner in letters written while he served time for false accounting in 1997.

Judge Tom Leech QC heard that the couple had only been together a year when Mr Collins, then working as an estate agent, received the six-month jail sentence.

‘While in prison, Mr Collins sent a number of letters to Ms Oberman and they discussed the business they would build together,’ said her barrister, Jack Watson.

The letters made it clear it was a joint business, with Mr Collins telling her they needed to ‘push on’ so that their family could be ‘strong and successful,’ he continued.

Ms Oberman’s lawyer Jack Watson claimed the mother sold her flat (pictured) in Wessex Drive, Erith, and poured the money into the joint property business

‘Following Mr Collins’ release from prison, he came to live with Ms Oberman and was reliant upon her for financial support,’ he added.

She subsequently sold her flat and poured the money into the joint business, also investing money gifted by her parents, while toiling untold hours unpaid on the basis that the property portfolio they were building was equally owned.

Over the following two decades, they had two kids together as the family fortunes grew and grew, but never married.

Mr Watson said Mr Collins had ‘continuously represented’ that they were joint owners of the portfolio, starting at the very birth of the business in his letters from prison.

The couple split in 2015 and, despite agreeing that they shared many of the properties in the portfolio, ended up in court in a fight over those held in Mr Collins’ sole name. Pictured: Three of the properties are in Greenhaven Drive

Mr Collins insisted that she had no rightful claim to 12 properties – mostly on the Thames riverside in London – which had been bought and had only his name on the deeds. Pictured: Two of the properties are in Redbourne Drive

In a first ruling in the case, Judge Leech said he was convinced Ms Oberman had been made a major shareholder in the business because it was a joint operation and not simply a decision made out of ‘love and affection’ by Mr Collins.

‘It was inconsistent with his letters from prison and his description of Ms Oberman as his business partner,’ said the judge.

He went on to declare that the properties – whether held in the former couple’s joint names, the name of the company, or Mr Collins’ alone – were shared.

Ms Oberman understood from what Mr Collins had told her that the entire portfolio, including those in his name, were held for them jointly and so were to be equally shared.

Acting on that belief, she had allowed him to control the properties, while herself working on them and allowing herself to become subject to financial liabilities based on them.

‘In my judgment, these findings are sufficient as a matter of law to give rise to a common intention constructive trust of the properties in the portfolio.’

At all times between 2008 and 2015, all of the properties had been treated as part of ‘a single portfolio in common ownership’ and there had been an ‘express agreement’ about that, he said.

He ordered that she be bought out by Mr Collins and she also receive her share of money made from the properties over the years.

Last week, in a final judgment on the case, he ruled that Mr Collins must pay his ex £1,404,201.63 to end the claim.

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