If you google divorce and prenups, you will find different results based on which state you are in. One thing is for sure, Elon Musk’s brief affair with the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, will get you much different search results, and may even call into question an expensive prenup.
I’m Feeling Lucky
Elon Musk is the richest person in the world, with an estimated fortune of $240 billion. While Sergey Brin is no slouch himself, he is clearly struggling to catch up in the rankings with a meager $95 billion.
Despite their competitiveness, Brin provided Musk with about $500,000 for Tesla during the 2008 financial crisis, when Tesla was struggling to increase production. In 2015, Musk gave Brin one of Tesla’s first all-electric sport-utility vehicles.
But in recent months, there has been growing tension between the two. Reportedly, Brin ordered his financial advisers to sell his personal investments in Musk’s companies
Brin filed for divorce from Nicole Shanahan in January of this year, citing “irreconcilable differences,” according to records filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court. The divorce filing was made several weeks after Brin learned of the brief affair, people have said.
At the time of the alleged liaison in early December, Brin and his wife were separated but still living together, according to a person close to Shanahan. In the divorce filing, Brin cited Dec. 15, 2021, as the date of the couple’s separation.
But Shanahan’s side is arguing that the prenuptial agreement they entered was signed under duress, while pregnant.
Florida Prenuptial Agreements
I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are not just for computer programmers and awesome car makers, and they are about much more than just resolving expensive millions of Tesla stock acquired during a marriage.
Any couple who brings any personal or business assets into their marriage can benefit from a prenuptial agreement. Prenups are important to have in place before a couple starts investing in start-up, electric car companies, DNA ancestry search companies, and other investments.
But prenups are frequently challenged in court.
Florida has both case law and a statute to help lawyers, judges, and the parties determine if a prenuptial agreement is enforceable. For example, Florida adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. The Act requires that all premarital agreements be in writing and signed by both parties. It is enforceable without consideration other than the marriage itself.
Couples wanting to sign one can enter into a premarital agreement with respect to their rights and obligations in any of their property, whenever and wherever acquired or located; their right to buy, sell, use, transfer, or otherwise manage and control their property and the disposition of their property if they separate, divorce, die, or any other event.
Prenuptial agreements may be challenged in court, as Shanahan may be attempting using the duress defense. When ruling on the validity of a prenup, Florida courts must consider things such as fraud, coercion, in addition to the unfairness of the agreement, whether there was any financial disclosure, and of course, duress.
About 11 hours after the Wall Street Journal article about the affair was published online, Musk tweeted:
This is total bs. Sergey and I are friends and were at a party together last night!”
Over the past two months, Musk’s personal life has drawn considerable attention. He has been accused of exposing himself to a flight attendant at SpaceX, which he denied. He also reportedly had two children late last year with a female executive at another company he co-founded, Neuralink. One of his 10 children has publicly disavowed him.
Then there’s Twitter. Earlier this month, Musk sought to back out of an agreement to buy Twitter, saying the company hasn’t provided the necessary information to assess the prevalence of fake or spam accounts. Twitter has sued Musk to force him to honor the deal, and a Delaware court has agreed to an expedited trial in October.
Brin and Shanahan already were facing problems in their marriage in the fall of 2021, primarily because of Covid pandemic shutdowns and the care of their 3-year-old daughter.
The liaison with Musk took place in early December 2021, at the Art Basel event in Miami. The alleged affair happened after Musk had broken up with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, the singer Grimes, in September.
Brin and Shanahan are now involved in divorce mediation, with Shanahan seeking more than $1 billion. The two sides have yet to come to an agreement, with Brin’s side claiming that Shanahan is asking for much more than her prenuptial agreement entitles her to.
The Wall Street Journal article is here.