Storm in a B-cup
One of Britain’s most successful businesswomen is getting divorced – because her husband couldn’t handle a revealing photo shoot the lingerie tycoon’s starred in for her own company.
Earlier this year, Michael Mone was said to be “appalled” after his wife, Michelle, who created the Ultimo bra, became the face of her company’s racy advertising campaign.
Mrs Mone founded MJM International with her husband in 1996, launching the first of her cleavage-enhancing Ultimo bras in 1999.
After losing 38kg, the 40-year-old mother-of-three recently began modelling her own range of lingerie, a move she said had left her husband so angry he had stopped talking to her.
The multi-millionairess admitted: ”He was appalled I’d posed in my underwear. He didn’t speak to me for days. It’s something we can’t talk about, even now.”
Rumours of marriage trouble circulated after Mrs Mone, from Glasgow, was pictured on the arm of EastEnders actor Shane Richie in April – and was then seen getting cosy with rugby player Gavin Henson at a pre-Wimbledon party in June.
She had met both men during the filming of the ITV show 71 Degrees North. She denied allegations that they were anything more than friends.
In October, multi-millionaire Mrs Mone admitted in an interview that the trappings of wealth and celebrity had not delivered happiness and that her relationship had been under strain.
She revealed that her husband was unnerved by the confidence her recent weight loss had given her.
In a surprisingly candid interview, Michelle said: “It hasn’t been easy for him. Before I was always there. Now, I’m more confident and outgoing. I’m doing things I wouldn’t have done before.
“I am a different person. Most of the changes in our lives have been brilliant — sex is better and we cook and eat together as a family — but there is a lot of adjusting to do and it’s been more difficult for Michael.”
She said: “I’ve been with Michael since I was 17 years old. We have our arguments like everyone else and we have to work on our relationship every day. You can only do your best.”
A statement issued yesterday through law firm Harper Macleod said: “It is with regret that we intimate that Mr Michael J Mone and Mrs Michelle G Mone OBE have decided to separate.
“There are no other parties involved and the split is amicable. Michael and Michelle’s focus will be the welfare of their children, which is their main priority.
“They will continue to work together in their business MJM International. This is a private matter and they would appreciate their privacy and that of their family being respected at this difficult time.”
Mrs Mone is considered one of the UK’s most successful businesswomen and her designs can be found in department stores worldwide.
She first found work as a model before creating the Ultimo bra and co-founding MJM International.
The couple have three children together: Rebecca, 19, Declan, 15, and 11-year-old Bethany.
Mrs Mone has previously admitted that, at the slightest hint of marriage problems, she enlisted the help of a life coach.
“He helped us learn how to talk to each other,” she said at the time.
Of her husband’s reaction to rumours of marriage trouble at the time of the Gavin Henson incident, she said: “He knows me well enough to know that I’m never going to run off with another man.
“This isn’t about a woman who loses weight just to leg it with another man. That’s not me at all. My family is the most important thing in my life.”
After Michelle and her husband launched MJM International in 1996, Ultimo’s popularity soared after Julia Roberts wore one of the company’s bras for her role in Erin Brockovich.
In October, the Scottish entrepreneur announced a partnership with Tesco to create an exclusive “affordable” bra brand called Bra Queen.
Argentine actress and supermodel Luisana Lopilato, who is married to Michael Buble, was recently revealed as the latest face of Ultimo.
Mone, from the East End of Glasgow, left school at 15 and joined Labatts Brewers in Glasgow, working her way up to run the sales and marketing team by the time she was just 20, before going on to launch her own company in 1996. She started building her lingerie empire during her 20s when she developed the gel-filled Ultimo bra.
She has always been proud of her success and has little compunction about showing it, driving around Glasgow in her white Aston Martin convertible with the top pulled down. There is also a Bentley and Range Rover in her garage.
She was less proud of her once-ample figure, however. She said that working with a string of supermodels such as Rachel Hunter and Helena Christensen had left her feeling inadequate about her body.
She embarked on a strict regime of diet and exercise, resulting in dramatic weight loss. But her newfound confidence in her appearance has coincided with, and perhaps contributed to, the most troubled period in her marriage.
In recent years her television work has increased, with appearances on a celebrity version of The Apprentice and regular slots on the You’re Fired programme which follows the main show.
Earlier this year she appeared on Celebrity Masterchef where it soon became evident that the tycoon had spent very little of her married life preparing meals for her husband and three children.
Her husband, she admitted, had always done most of the cooking.
Last year the couple doubled the size of their home in Glasgow after striking a deal to buy and bulldoze a neighbour’s six-bedroom house. Some residents branded the new house a “monstrosity” and lodged objections.
Mone’s bank balance is set to continue to soar as a collection of beauty products and a perfume are planned for next year.
Sales at MJM International topped £10 million (R127 000) for the first time last year.
Last year she said the MJM International business had been valued at £48m by business advisers.
The Mones own all of the shares in the company, after buying the stakes of investors Sir Tom Hunter and Arcadia chief executive Ian Grabiner for £800 000. – Daily Mail