‘Mr Selfridge’ in a £1.8million war with his ex-wife over their secret baby: Tycoon, 78, agreed to IVF child AFTER split but then tries to get divorce payment back

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  • William Allun Cathcart agreed to father a secret child with his wife after separation
  • Pamela Owen tried unsuccessfully to have another baby using her stored sperm after she split
  • A High Court judge has rejected his attempt to snatch Owen from the £1.8 million he won after his divorce from Owen

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A modern-day Mr Selfridge tries to siphon off £1.8million divorce payments from his ex-wife during a 20-year legal battle.

The saga began when William Alun Cathcart, 78, former president of Selfridges department store, agreed to father a secret child with second wife Pamela Owen after their separation.

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Now the High Court has dismissed the claims of crorepatis arising out of the ‘contradictory’ settlement.

A top divorce judge blasted the pair’s “furious, hostile, bitter demeanor” as he accused Mr Cathcart of making “completely false” allegations against his ex.

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The businessman agreed to donate his sperm to Miss Owen, 66, behind his new wife’s back in exchange for a pledge by his ex-wife that, more than three years later, she would not seek maintenance for the child.

But when the deal backfired, he accused Miss Owen of fraud and threatened to tell their estranged children that his ex-wife was not their biological mother.

William Alun Cathcart, 78, the former president of Selfridge’s department store, agreed to father a secret child with second wife Pamela Owen after separating

Mr Cathcart joined the high-end department store whose founder Harry Gordon Selfridge was the focus of the ITV period drama Mr Selfridge as a director in 1998.

During his six-year tenure as chairman, he oversaw the company’s £600 million sale to Galen Weston in 2003 and was also chief executive of the European business of car rental company Avis.

Executive was already a grandfather from his first marriage, when he met Miss Owen, a former cabin attendant, and they married in 1997.

The couple, who could not conceive naturally, had their first child in March 2001 in California thanks to fertility treatments using donor eggs.

During a six-year tenure as Selfridge's chairman, Cathcart oversaw the £600 million sale of the company to Galen Weston in 2003.

During a six-year tenure as Selfridge’s chairman, Cathcart oversaw the £600 million sale of the company to Galen Weston in 2003.

But the couple parted ways after three months, as Mr Cathcart – better known by his middle name Alun – struck up a new relationship with another woman he is now married to.

In 2004, unbeknownst to his new wife, Mr. Cathcart agreed with Miss Owen to provide sperm for a second IVF child using an egg donor – but only if she guarantees she will not have to pay maintenance. There will even be a demand for £100,000 as protection against future claims. By him, with the child born in 2005.

The feud began three years later when Miss Owen applied for maintenance while struggling to care for the children who had ‘deep learning difficulties’.

In 2011, Mr Cathcart agreed to pay £20,000 per year per child, plus school fees.

A year later Mr. Cathcart and his new wife were banned from giving children information about their pregnancies until they were older.

Miss Owen later obtained a court order banning the children from seeing and eventually told them the truth herself – after Mr. Cathcart asked permission to reveal the secret.

Selfridge founder Harry Gordon Selfridge was the focus of ITV period drama Mr Selfridge

Selfridge founder Harry Gordon Selfridge was the focus of ITV period drama Mr Selfridge

The fight escalated in court again this year as Mr. Cathcart accused his ex of fraud – based on his discovery that Miss Owen had unsuccessfully tried to have another child using her stored sperm after parting.

He applied to have the £1.8million won by him after the divorce, claiming he would not have agreed if he had known about her attempts to have a child behind his back.

But Mr Justice Mostyn dismissed Cathcart’s allegations, saying: ‘It is difficult to understand the psychological processes that drive such furious, hostile, bitter conduct for so long.’

The judge also emphasized that the divorce payment amounted to less than 20 percent of the couple’s assets at the time.

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