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Playing the odds, entrepreneur sees opportunity in divorce loans

Saying that, "I wanted to see if I could make it in the biggest, toughest city there is," an enterprising Australian businessman recently set up shop in New York City to cater to a select group of clients.

His customers? Cash-strapped but potentially wealthy clients in high-asset divorce cases, who, although currently short on funds, could ultimately collect huge amounts in settlements.

That is where Brendan Lyle and his company, BBL Churchill, step in, by fronting clients with needed funds to defray various living costs and expenses while they negotiate divorce details such as property division, alimony, child support and so forth.

Lyle comes from a family of long-time bookies, and simply smelled opportunity with his venture. Thus far, he has lent money out in over two dozen cases, with the average amount being in excess of $250,000. The loans don't come cheaply: The risks involved -- some "wild card" clients are simply unpredictable; sometimes the outcomes simply aren't as optimal as hoped for -- bring high interest rates, which typically range from 15 percent to 20 percent.

Many of Lyle's clients don't seem to care, especially in a situation where a lack of money now will likely change to a heady degree of wealth following a settlement. To better play the odds, Lyle works with a retired state judge and investment partner. The three go over the details and the probable outcome of a case before any decision on a loan is made.

So far, Lyle pronounces the venture a success. Although the divorce rate in New York City is actually lower than the national average, there is obviously much concentrated wealth in the area.

Lyle is literally banking on that.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Dialing up dollars for divorce," Anne Kadet, Feb. 15, 2013

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