Millionaire financier, 65, is locked in bitter court fight with his business executive ex lover over ownership of £2.5m Cotswolds holiday home after cheating on her with another woman
- Financier Dr Chris Rowland, 65, and business executive Sharon Blades, 60, are locked in a bitter High Court battle over the £2.5m Cotswolds home they shared
- Millionaire financier bought Grade-II listed Tadmarton House for £1.6m in 2009
- He cheated on his ‘devastated’ partner with another woman, the court was told
- Now they dispute who should keep the Banbury property or benefit from its sale
A millionaire financier is locked in a bitter court battle with his former partner over the couple’s £2.5 million Cotswolds mansion after cheating on her with another woman.
The dispute between Dr Chris Rowland, 65, and business executive Sharon Blades, 60, has now been taken to London’s High Court as they lock horns over who will win the house in the separation.
The couple met in 2006 and soon ‘fell in love’, the court heard as lawyers outlined their relationship.
Dr Rowland paid out just over £1.6m for Grade-II listed Tadmarton House, near Banbury, in March 2009, and the couple began using it as a weekend and holiday retreat.
But in November 2009, Ms Blades discovered her lover had taken up with another woman, Emmanuelle Duyck, explained her barrister Thomas Roe, leaving her emotionally ‘devastated’.
Dr Chris Rowland, 65, (pictured left) and business executive Sharon Blades, 60, (pictured right) are fighting over the ownership of their £2.5m Cotswolds mansion at London’s High Court after he cheated on her with another woman
Dr Rowland spent a period of months enjoying the company of both women, the High Court heard, and although he and Ms Blades tried to patch things up through couples counselling, the therapy proved futile.
Now, 12 years after buying the ‘large and elegant country house’ Dr Rowland is suing his former lover, asking a judge to rule that the house belongs to him alone.
But Ms Blades is fighting the case and insists the house was always intended to be shared by them. The court was told they dreamt of retiring to the countryside home.
Mr Roe told the court that Dr Rowland, a high-achieving financial analyst who bagged a salary of over £1m at the peak of his career, had told Ms Blades he ‘looked forward to growing old with her’, and the couple set their hearts on buying a rural home.
They were captivated by Tadmarton House, a sprawling Cotswolds home where Dr Rowland also planned to cultivate elephant grass in the adjoining fields as a sideline.
‘We were going to retire there,’ Ms Blades told the court.
‘It was going to be our joint property,’ she added, telling Judge William Hansen they both signed a joint tenancy on the house.
As a result, they each have a 50 percent stake in the home and she should be able to walk away with half the proceeds if they sell up, Ms Blades claims.
However, Dr Rowland says she always understood that he effectively owned Tadmarton House, although she would have the right to live there for life.
And he says Ms Blades also understood that the property was ultimately to be inherited by his daughter, Hanna.
Dr Rowland paid out just over £1.6m for Grade-II listed Tadmarton House, near Banbury, in March 2009
He says that from late 2009 ‘Ms Blades vetoed his use of the property in the company of his new partner’, Ms Duyck, and made clear he wasn’t welcome in his own home.
And on top of his ownership claim, he is seeking £371,000 in back rent from Ms Blades, covering September 2009 to October 2018.
In evidence Dr Rowland, who says he never lived under the same roof as Ms Blades, agreed he had viewed his time with her as a ‘serious relationship’, and told the court: ‘I’m not the sort of person to have a short-term fling’.
He accepted that he had ‘probably’ told Mrs Blades that he was ‘looking forward to growing old together’ and said he went into the relationship with a view that ‘it would last.’
Although Ms Blades would have a right to live in the property for life, it was understood she would never benefit from it financially, he said.
‘We agreed that nothing would disrupt the inheritance due to my daughter Hanna,’ he explained.
Although both their names were on the title deeds as the registered owners of Tadmarton House, there was a ‘clear understanding that the property was part of my daughter’s inheritance’.
Ms Blades was ‘upset and emotional’ when in 2009 she discovered he was ‘having an affair,’ Dr Rowland told the court.
The couple used it as a weekend and holiday retreat, and had plans to retire there together, the court heard
‘And you carried on seeing both of them for quite a while didn’t you – several months?’ Mr Roe pointed out.
‘Yes. I’m not proud of that fact,’ Dr Rowland explained.
‘But I was emotionally attached to both women and each of them wanted me to choose between them and I had real trouble making that choice.’
Ms Blades said she always believed she had an equal financial stake in the property, and her legal team highlighted a June 2011 email from Dr Rowland which stated: ‘I’ve no intention of trying to “take it away from you” – it’s at least as much yours as mine’.
‘I thought we were buying the property together,’ she told the court.
And although she didn’t contribute towards the purchase, she had supported him throughout their relationship and they expected to spend the rest of their lives together.
Dr Rowland was also a wealthy man who was then raking in lavish bonuses from his job as a financier.
‘I supported him and we were in a loving, secure long-term relationship, and it was his suggestion that we would buy the property together,’ she explained.
‘We had been together a long time and we were looking to the future, and I was with him when he earned these big bonuses.
‘He suggested that we should buy a property. We went looking for it and he said he would pay for it.’
Asked by Dr Rowland’s barrister, Paul Duprie, what support she had given, Mrs Blades replied: ‘We were living together and being a couple.
‘I gave him emotional support and I helped financially where I could. I bought the shopping. We were like any couple.’
And she denied ever trying to ‘exclude’ Dr Rowland from Tadmarton House, saying: ‘It was his house as well as mine’.
But Dr Rowland’s barrister put to her: ‘From 2009 onwards you made plain to him that he wasn’t welcome there’.
‘He was welcome any time,’ she told the court, although adding: ‘I do agree that I said he should not bring Emmanuelle Duyck down.
‘That was for a couple of years but after that I didn’t care who he was with.’
The trial continues.
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