ECOTRICITY founder Dale Vince is fighting his ex-wife’s £2million claim for maintenance – more than 20 years after they divorced.

Mr Vince, 51, also chairman and owner of Blue Square Premier football club Forest Green Rovers, says his multi-million-pound business empire was years in the future and he had little or no income when he and Kathleen Wyatt, 53, divorced in 1992.

The green entrepreneur is now appealing after the High Court refused to strike out Ms Wyatt's claim for financial support and ordered him to pay £125,000 towards her legal costs.

The pair met in 1981 when Ms Wyatt had a daughter from a previous relationship and they lived together in North Staffordshire, surviving mainly on benefits, London’s Civil Appeal Court heard on Monday, April 22. 

Mr Vince took up a "nomadic" existence as a New Age traveller after the pair separated in 1984 - a year after their son Dane was born, said Mr Vince's barrister, Martin Pointer QC.

In the mid-1990s, he set up a wind energy business with a new girlfriend. The business developed into Ecotricity.

"From a modest beginning, with the creation of a wind turbine to power a trailer in which he and his partner were living, the business developed into a considerable enterprise," the barrister added.

In 1992, Ms Wyatt, a former-aid worker, divorced Mr Vince, but Mr Pointer says his client was not ordered to pay any maintenance as he was broke at the time.

"In 1992 he had a nascent business but he had no income at all. He was living on housing benefit," he added.

Mr Vince disputes claims by Ms Wyatt that the pair repeatedly rekindled their relationship up until the early 1990s.

Mr Pointer also said that Mr Vince had made "full disclosure" of his financial position to the Child Support Agency (CSA) in 1996.

Urging the court to strike out Ms Wyatt's financial claims, Mr Pointer said: "This is one of those very extreme cases where the court can be confident in finding that it is a hopeless case."

The QC said Ms Wyatt had started a new relationship in 1993 and has since had two more children, though she did not remarry.

Philip Cayford QC, for Ms Wyatt, said Mr Vince provided only three very old cars and "sporadic pocket money" for his son and step-daughter up until 2001.

The barrister claimed that, between 1996 and 1997, he achieved a "nil assessment" for contributions by the CSA despite his "apparent wealth".

He said Ms Wyatt, now of Monmouthshire, learned Mr Vince's business was taking off in the mid-nineties and claimed that the "children had been pressured by him not to inform her of his newly acquired wealth."

Ms Wyatt tried and failed to get him to pay her maintenance while he drove "better and better" cars and moved into Rodborough Fort, an 18th-century property, worth more than £3million, Mr Cayford said.

The QC added: "Ms Wyatt repeatedly asked for financial assistance and whether he was going to pay the children more than just pocket money as he was building up his business.

"He treated her with contempt. He said if she could not afford to maintain the children, they could live with him."

Mr Cayford said: "This is a lady who has had it financially very difficult. She came to court today by getting up early to use the bus and sleeping in the bus station. The contrast between the two [her and Mr Vince] is extreme."

He added: "This wife's claim is not bound to fail. It is not unwinnable. It is not plain and obvious and is not absolutely hopeless. The judge clearly thought the case was not in that category."

Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Lord Justice Jackson and Lord Justice Tomlinson, reserved judgment on the appeal until a later date.

Lord Justice Jackson said that one issue for the court to decide was whether Ms Wyatt's claim was "so old and so stale" that it should not be allowed to proceed.

If Mr Vince fails in his attempt to strike out his ex-wife's case, her maintenance claim is expected to be heard by a family judge in June.