The bitter divorce of John Paulson, Donald Trump’s tycoon friend and economic advisor

The investor, who raised over $50 million for the former president at a fundraiser, left his wife of two decades for an influencer 33 years his junior

John Paulson y Donald Trump
John Paulson and his partner Alina de Almeida receive Donald Trump and his wife Melania at their home in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6, 2024.Alon Skuy (Getty Images)
María Porcel

John Paulson is one of those personalities who are a regular feature of charity galas, newscasts, and the gossip pages of newspapers. With an estimated fortune of $3.5 billion according to Forbes, at 68 years of age the investor and philanthropist who once donated $400 million to Harvard University, and who amassed a vast fortune ahead of the financial crash of 2008 by shorting the U.S. housing market, is now in the headlines for two other issues, one related to his bank accounts and another to himself, his interests, and his personal life. Last weekend, he received his good friend Donald Trump at his home in Miami, where he raised over $50 million for the Republican candidate’s presidential campaign, a single-event record in U.S. political history. As host, he posed for the cameras with his new partner, a nutritionist and influencer named Alina de Almeida, 35, who was sporting a stunning diamond ring and whom he already refers to as his fiancée. However, Paulson is still married to his first wife and divorce proceedings are far from resolved.

Paulson, a finance graduate from New York University’s College of Business and Public Administration and who holds an MBA in business from Harvard, has been in the public eye for much more than his fortune in the past three years. In 2000, aged 44, he married the woman he had met as his assistant, 28-year-old Romanian immigrant Jenny Zaharia. Together they had two daughters, Danielle (20) and Giselle (18). The relationship broke down in 2021, when the press learned that the tycoon had started a relationship with De Almeida, a nutritionist and entrepreneur who had moved into his apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. And when the press found out, Jenny found out.

It was in the fall of 2021 that Paulson and De Almeida began to be seen together in public, at parties with the mayor of New York, at weddings, and galas at museums. His still-wife claimed to have learned of the divorce from the tabloids rather than from her lawyers, specifically from Page Six. “John did not tell her. She had no idea he was planning to file for divorce. She only found out that he had filed when Page Six published their story — she never saw it coming,” said sources close to Zaharia at the end of 2021, adding that Paulsen’s actions were “humiliating and disrespectful.” The couple had spent the summer of 2021 with their daughters in the Hamptons, and in August they had gone on a family trip to the Salzburg Festival in Austria. In September the divorce was announced and Paulsen and De Almeida attended a luxurious wedding on Lake Como in Italy. A year later, Paulson himself told the media: “Unfortunately, our marriage didn’t work out. Divorces are common, but difficult. Alina and I are very happy together. I hope Jenny can find happiness too.”

Jenny and John Paulson at a charity dinner in September 2018 in New York.
Jenny and John Paulson at a charity dinner in September 2018 in New York.Jared Siskin (Getty Images)

Paulson and Zaharia had not signed a prenuptial agreement. He decided to withdraw the divorce suit and negotiate with Zaharia over money and property (they own homes in Miami, Manhattan, the Hamptons, and a 40-acre ranch in Aspen, Colorado). That negotiation has now been dragging on for almost three years, during which time Paulsen and De Almeida have become engaged.

The wedding, though, is on hold as Paulson is still married to Zaharia. She, moreover, is in no hurry to settle, as she seeks the best deal possible for her and her two daughters. In July 2022, Paulson’s former assistant sued after rejecting a settlement tabled by the tycoon that did not offer a lump sum but a monthly allowance. She then accused her husband of having for years operated a scheme to hide part of his assets and of weaving a “secretive web of trusts” containing more than $1 billion during their marriage. Zaharia claimed that, specifically, the three funds had been created in 2001, 2006, and 2009 to hide money, which “served to evade Mr. Paulson’s lawful obligation in the event of divorce” and left her “in shock,” according to court documents to which the New York Post had access.

John Paulson and his partner, Alina de Almeida, receiving Donald and Melania Trump at their home in Palm Beach, Florida.
John Paulson and his partner, Alina de Almeida, receiving Donald and Melania Trump at their home in Palm Beach, Florida.Alon Skuy (Getty Images)

Paulson’s lawyers denied the claims and said Zaharia had known since 2006 that her husband had several trusts. She was accused of acting out of “greed” and the lawyers said if the trusts were split they would be subject to huge sums in taxes, also letting slip that, in that case, the couple’s two daughters would receive a “diluted” inheritance. In March 2022, Paulson sold a 2,600-square-meter apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for just $5 million having initially asked for $24.5 million. Shortly thereafter, Zaharia accused him of having made a “sham purchase” of a penthouse in Puerto Rico to “improperly enrich himself” to the tune of $10 million at the expense of the trusts, her lawyers told the Daily Mail. In December 2022, the two appeared in court in Manhattan, where Paulson tried to dismiss the case, claiming she was attempting a “shameless money grab,” as Bloomberg reported.

The divorce remains unresolved, while the still-married couple lead entirely separate lives. Paulson tries to be discreet in his new relationship, according to sources in the U.S. media, so as not to further inflame the anger of Zaharia. He devotes his time to his business, his partner, and to his friend Trump, who he has been advising on economic issues for years — so much so that his name has even been mentioned as a possible candidate to head the Treasury if the Republican wins the presidency for a second time.

At the fundraiser, Paulson opened the doors of his mansion to a select group of guests (who paid between $250,000 and $814,000 per head for dinner and to have their picture taken with the White House hopeful). Trump knows the importance and the value, in every sense, of Paulson’s friendship. So much so that while Paulson was accompanied by De Almeida, who was sporting an engagement ring, the former president was accompanied for the first time during the presidential election pre-campaign by his wife Melania, who when welcomed by Paulson and De Almeida exchanged her usual grim expression for smiles and hugs.

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