A landlady who ran a pub popular with celebrities has been hit with a £54,000 court bill after she was sued by her millionaire ex-husband for opening his post while looking for evidence he was having an affair.
Karen Santi and ex-husband Lawrence operated a string of glitzy London pubs together during more than a decade of marriage, and counted Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, singer Gwen Stefani, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson among their customers.
The pair split last year, with Karen, who serves drinks to well-heeled punters at the Princess of Wales in Primrose Hill, learning her ‘marriage was over’ on returning from holiday to the £2.2m family home in Hampstead last September.
Whilst ‘angry and upset’ and ‘looking for material to confirm her suspicion that her husband was having an affair’ she ‘accessed and read privileged material’ including one of Mr Santi’s Lloyds Bank statements, London’s High Court heard.
She has now been hit with a £54,000 bill – which her lawyers said will ‘wipe out the wife’s liquid assets’ – after her ex took her to court, suing for breach of his privacy.
But Mr Santi’s lawyers say she got what she deserved for ‘thinking she could get away with invading his privacy’.
Karen Santi and ex-husband Lawrence operated a string of glitzy London pubs together during more than a decade of marriage
Mr Santi, 46, is the CEO and founder of Marylebone Leisure Group, running 12 high-end pubs and restaurants employing 300 people across the capital.
He was born into the hospitality industry, with parents who were career restaurateurs, while his grandfather owned and operated two of London’s most popular nightclubs in the 70s – the River Club in Piccadilly and Talk of the Town in Leicester Square, now the Hippodrome.
His own venues include Bar Italia in Boris Johnson’s constituency, Uxbridge, and where he was pictured drinking prior to becoming PM.
Mrs Santi, also 46, meanwhile ran flagship boozer the Princess of Wales in super-posh Primrose Hill, where regulars included some of Britain’s best-loved musicians.
But the pair’s marriage hit the rocks last year, with the final nail on the coffin coming when she returned from holiday suspecting him of having had an affair.
In her search for evidence of infidelity, she opened one of his paper bank statements and read messages on his computer, and later sent some of the information she obtained to a financial advisor, the court heard.
She later told her husband in a message ‘You come at me and I’ll come at you,’ Lawrence’s barrister Adam Speker said.
Subsequently in December last year, Mr Santi sued Mrs Santi in the High Court, seeking an urgent interim injunction.
He asked Mr Justice Nicklin to make a non-disclosure order covering the private information Mrs Santi obtained, an order that no copies be made, a demand that she make out a witness statement explaining what she had obtained and how, plus an ‘invasive’ forensic imaging order intended to lay bare all the contents of her computer and other electronic devices.
At that hearing on December 22, Mrs Santi agreed to give undertakings to the court not to delete the private information and images she obtained, to deliver up hard copies of any of Mr Santi’s private documents she had and not to publish any of the information she obtained.
Karen serves drinks to well-heeled punters at the Princess of Wales in Primrose Hill, pictured
Last week, the warring former couple were in court again with Mr Santi demanding his ex should pay his £90,000 lawyers’ bill for the hearing in December.
Mr Speker, for Mr Santi, told the judge: ‘Invasions of privacy are unlawful but all too common in family proceedings. Mrs Santi thought she could get away with invading my client’s privacy.’
But Tim Scott QC, for Mrs Santi, told the judge that while the incident was ‘regrettable’ it was ‘not serious’ and should not result in an order he said would eat up all all the wife’s ready cash.
Mr Justice Nicklin, giving his ruling, said: ‘The parties are husband and wife. They are presently divorcing. These proceedings involve misuse of private information.
‘The husband was seeking an immediate imaging order. I was unwilling to make that order. Such orders are amongst the most intrusive that a court can grant.
‘The court has yet to decide where the merit lies in the overall matter….(but) she has accessed documents that she shouldn’t have.
‘The wife has accepted responsibility, at least in part, for breaching the confidentiality of the husband.
‘The wife says a case of one spouse accessing the confidential information of the other in the context of a marriage breakdown, whilst unlawful, is understandable.
‘In this matter the court can see where the merit lies. There is a frank admission that she has accessed a small amount of documents belonging to the husband that she ought not to have done.
‘I do not agree that this all should have been left to the Family Division.
Mr Lawrence’s venues include Bar Italia in Boris Johnson’s constituency, Uxbridge, and where he was pictured drinking prior to becoming PM
‘When access has been made to confidential documents by a spouse, or anybody else, a claimant is entitled to access a remedy in the High Court Queens Bench Division on an urgent basis.
‘In my judgment, the husband was entitled to bring these proceedings. The application made for an injunction in these proceedings was in my judgment justified.
‘The husband is justified in saying that the injunction being sought led to the undertakings that were not offered prior to the hearing.’
The judge ordered Mrs Santi to pay 60% of her ex-husband’s £90,000 costs, leaving her with a £54,000 bill.
He said payment would be deferred until their divorce fight over money has developed further, but added that Mr Santi’s lawyers could apply for payment on account once their battle commences in the family courts.
But he warned the pair against fighting too long and hard, saying: ‘In matrimonial proceedings, both parties can become quite entrenched and both parties need to have regard to the pot of money they have to divide between them.’