A divorced socialite has gone to court to try to stop her ex-husband from paying for fertility treatments for his new wife. Ashley Kozel, 47, has sought enforcement in Manhattan Supreme Court of a multi-million dollar judgment stemming from their divorce settlement. In that agreement, ex-husband Todd Kozel, 48, agreed to transfer 23 million shares of stock of the company where he served as CEO, Gulf Keystone Petroleum, but delayed the transfer and supplied his ex-wife with incorrect tax information related to it.
Because of fluctuations in the energy market and capital gains taxes, the court found that the former Mrs. Kozel has suffered losses in the neighborhood of $34M, and ordered Mr. Kozel to pay. He is appealing the ruling, leading to the current stand-off.
If this seems extreme, a little background might be helpful. Todd Kozel ran an oil development company that was known for work in difficult parts of the world. Before the smoke had cleared from the Iraq war, Kozel is said to have been traveling the northern deserts, inking lucrative oil contracts with local leaders, especially in Kurdish regions.
Gulf Keystone Petroleum grew at a healthy pace, with Todd mostly based in London or traveling abroad for work and his wife Ashley and their two daughters living well in Sarasota, Florida. In the post-invasion years when oil was routinely trading at $100 a barrel and up, the couple saw their fortunes grow, even as their marriage faltered. In 2010, after 18 years of marriage, Ashley filed for divorce in Sarasota.
This is designed to provide a factual basis for the spouses, or the judge, to determine a fair settlement of the marital assets. In the Kozel case, these included a $700,000 wine collection, several properties, and expensive art and furnishings.
But when Ashley Kozel’s lawyers began looking at the disclosures related to Gulf Keystone Petroleum, they discovered that Todd Kozel had gone to elaborate lengths to protect his personal fortune from divorce court.
By creating a series of trusts, the court found that Todd had stashed millions of dollars of stock into vehicles specifically designed to shield them, in an aggressive bout of pre-divorce planning. One such trust, which held some $90M in stock, or 4% of GKP at the time, was based on the English channel island of Jersey, which Ashley Kozel’s legal team described as a “notorious asset protection jurisdiction.”
As you can imagine, this was not a quick divorce, but in January 2012, the couple signed a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) that was incorporated into their divorce decree. Under the terms of the PSA, Todd Kozel agreed to transfer the 23 million GKP shares to his now ex-wife by January 27 of that year.
She planned to sell most of the stock into a favorable market, except that ex-husband Todd failed to deliver on time. Instead, he transferred the stock in four tranches through March of that year, during which time the stock price declined. Ashley Kozel went back to court to ask for relief.
Meanwhile, in 2013, Todd Kozel purchased a $12.7M, 3,800 square foot condo in Chelsea for his new wife, Inga, a Lithuanian model. In 2014, he stepped down as GKP’s CEO, but remains its executive director. In September 2015, Ashley Kozel’s enforcement case was decided, and Todd Kozel was hit with a bill for $34M to compensate his ex-wife for the delayed stock transfer.
Because he had left his CEO role, he claimed to be too poor to pay it. Since then, motions have been flying in courthouses in Manhattan and Florida. Ashley Kozel has sought to take an inventory of the contents of the Chelsea condo, and has argued that Todd Kozel’s lavish spending on his new wife constitutes a breach.
The latest round of litigation, involving a letter Ashley Kozel sent to the fertility clinic where Todd Kozel’s wife Inga is being treated, reaches a level of intensity that’s rarely seen in divorce.
She is requesting that the Manhattan clinic stop accepting payment from Todd Kozel because of a freeze on his assets ordered by the court. The judge seems disposed to side with the ex-wife in the case, telling Todd Kozel’s attorneys that, “the way to stop all this enforcement from going on,” is to pay the $34M.
Whether it’s appropriate or not for an ex-spouse to interfere with the new spouse’s medical treatments, it seems likely that while he appeals the Florida judgment, Todd Kozel will need to find some other way to fund the lavish lifestyle he and his new wife share. Court records show that they enjoy shopping trips through Europe’s capitals, drive luxury cars, and routinely rack up tens of thousands in credit card bills.
These types of actions do not typically endear one to a judge when there’s a large judgment owed to another party.
The case of Kozel vs Kozel is an extreme example of using the power of the courts to enforce its own orders, but should offer a clarifying picture for those who find their ex-spouses not living up to the terms of their agreement.
Many people just give up on collecting child support, maintenance, or property that they are entitled to based on the court order that dissolved their marriage, but the truth is that there’s good reason to seek enforcement in your case, and courts are disposed to ensure that their own orders are carried out faithfully.
The attorneys at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino have seen it all when it comes to a spouse failing to follow through after a divorce.
When your spouse won’t pay what you’re owed, you can get the help you need. Call us today at 718-725-9601 for a free consultation with an experienced Brooklyn post-judgment enforcement attorney.