New flame: Steiner with model Patrycja Pyka

   Ocado boss Tim Steiner is making public appearances with his girlfriend Patrycja Pyka
Her arrival on the scene will give pause for thought to Ocado shareholders
They have had a bumpy ride since it floated on the stock market in 2010

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    His camp maintains he did not ‘dump’ wife Belinda for a younger model
Says there was a gap between the split and setting up home with Patrycja

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Tycoon Steiner filed for divorce from wife Belinda citing unreasonable behaviour
Tim Steiner looked every inch the proud consort as he squired his young girlfriend around a party in London’s Mayfair. 
There was no question of the 46-year-old married chief executive of online grocer Ocado trying to conceal his relationship with Patrycja Pyka, a Polish lingerie model young enough to be his daughter. Quite the opposite.
The pair mingled happily with their fellow guests, posing for photographs and sipping highballs, he in a dark suit and open-neck shirt, she in a Chanel-style boucle jacket and pale trousers that clung to her enviable curves.
Her attire on this occasion was a far cry from the black lace body suit she sported for her appearance in Flirt Magazine, a lads’ website devoted to ‘hot models’, cars and gadgets.
Glamour: Patrycja Pyka, 27, pictured reclining against the New York skyline wearing thigh-high stockings and heels, is the model girlfriend of Ocado tycoon Tim Steiner
But then, from the point of view of the dental hygiene graduate from the coal-mining town of Myslowice in south Poland, this was no ordinary party. The pair were guests at the launch last spring of The House of Elemis, an opulent spa owned by Steiner Leisure, the beauty empire founded by Tim’s great-grandfather.
For him to openly parade Patrycja, 27, at a corporate event hosted by his family’s old firm was tantamount to a declaration of her status as his official partner. Being supplanted in such a public way will have been a bitter blow for his soon-to-be ex-wife Belinda, 45.
But the arrival of Patrycja on the scene will also give pause for thought to shareholders in Ocado, who have had a bumpy ride since it floated on the stock market in 2010. 
Steiner, a former Goldman Sachs banker who set up the firm in 2000 with friends Jason Gissing and Jonathan Faiman, is the only one of the original trio to remain at the company.
He is a major shareholder with a 4.6 per cent stake — worth £86million — provoking speculation he will have to sell a large chunk in a settlement with Belinda, whom he is divorcing for her unreasonable behaviour. 
Then there is the delicate question of whether, amid the chaos of his domestic situation, he can devote his full attention to running Ocado. He is certainly facing plenty of distractions.
Unusually, Tim and Patrycja are looking after the four teenage Steiner children — three boys, including twins, and a girl, at a detached house in Highgate, an affluent enclave in North London. Belinda is living in a garden flat in nearby St John’s Wood.
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Split: Tim Steiner’s camp maintains he did not ‘dump’ Belinda (pictured) for a younger model, but that there was a substantial gap between breaking with his wife and setting up home with Patrycja

Her friends say she is distraught at being separated from her children. The marriage, they say, cracked under the strain she felt at looking after a growing family single-handed, while her husband worked round the clock at Ocado. She is said to admit to having turned to alcohol to take the edge off in the past.

Friends of his, unsurprisingly, tell a different tale. Far from being a work-obsessed, absent husband and father, they depict him as a man who struggled for years to make his marriage work before finally throwing in the towel more than three years ago.
His camp maintains he did not ‘dump’ Belinda for a younger model, but that there was a substantial gap between breaking with his wife and setting up home with Patrycja.

 

Miss Pyka has her hair slicked back and coolly struts the catwalk
‘Tim is a very good father. There has been a decade of difficulty at least. It was not just about drink. He tried everything to sort out the problems but they got worse. His friends think he is being dealt a very poor hand,’ says one.
Regardless of how the blame is apportioned, Tim Steiner’s messy private life is a concern for investors, who would prefer him to concentrate on Ocado. From the outset, after the three Ocado founders quit their jobs at Goldman in 2000 with a bright idea for an online grocer, the company looked like a roaring success.
With products supplied exclusively by Waitrose, it rapidly established a reputation as a quintessential middle-class grocer, luring shoppers with its arborio rice and organic hummus.
Its colourful, chunky vans were soon clogging streets all over the capital as the likes of Samantha Cameron and Victoria Beckham tapped their shopping lists into their laptops.
Hundreds of thousands of families signed up for deliveries, and Ocado became as much of a symbol of Middle England as an Aga or a pair of Hunter wellies. While customers flocked in, however, profits proved elusive.
The company was loss-making for more than a decade and has only clawed modestly into the black in the past couple of years.
Tim and his fellow founders, however, did not wait to see an actual profit before extracting rich rewards from the company.
He has received millions of pounds in salary and bonuses, despite the long string of losses — and despite doubts among some City commentators about Ocado’s future. Critics argue the business is at a crunch point in its growth. The shares are down more than 35 per cent since last summer.
Yet the uncertainties of operating an online grocer in the cut-throat British market have not proved any impediment to Tim accumulating a treasure trove of more than £100million in cash and shares over his 15 years in charge.

 

Split: Tim Steiner’s camp maintains he did not ‘dump’ Belinda (pictured) for a younger model, but that there was a substantial gap between breaking with his wife and setting up home with Patrycja
To put this in perspective, Ocado has made total profits before tax of £19.1million in its entire existence. His assets include the former family home, a sprawling mansion in North London, bought for £7.7 million in 2006 with a loan from HSBC Private Bank.
The house, which is understood not to be occupied by either of the Steiners, is now valued at just under £15.7 million on the online property site Zoopla.
There is also a holiday chalet in Courchevel in France. But Belinda’s lawyers will have a beady eye on the real goldmine: the fortune he has amassed from Ocado.
He holds nearly 28 million shares, worth £86 million. Around half of these are held in his own name and the rest are stashed in an offshore vehicle, the Steiner 2008 Millennium Trust, based in the tax haven of Nassau in the Bahamas.
He is a beneficiary of the trust along with other members of his family, but it is not known whether they include Belinda. 
In the past five years, he has received £15.4 million in pay and bonuses, the bulk of it as performance-related share incentives rather than cash.
This sum includes a whopping £5.9 million package for last year. Perks include a chauffeur to ferry him to his company headquarters in an old De Havilland aircraft factory in Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
There have also been judiciously timed share sales that have swelled the Steiner wallet.
The Trust offloaded £5 million of shares back in February 2011 — a move which was likely to alarm shareholders and City observers, and drew comment in the media. Controversially, the Trust chose to announce the move to the Stock Exchange at 6pm on a Friday, when most analysts had left their desks for the weekend.
At the time, Steiner said the investment fund is a blind trust that he does not control, and claimed the idea that he was trying to bury the transaction was ‘preposterous’.
Whatever the reason, the timing was extremely opportune, because the following Monday £100 million was wiped off the company’s value after Waitrose (which, though it supplies Ocado’s products, is a commercial rival) announced plans to beef up its online business.
Ocado divides opinion in the City as to whether it has come up with a genuinely viable business model. What few shoppers will realise is that, over the past few years, it has quietly morphed from a grocer into a ‘service provider’.
Three years ago, it signed a lucrative 25-year contract with supermarket group Morrisons to look after its online business.
But this tie-up, negotiated by Morrisons’ previous CEO before he left under a cloud, is widely viewed as being far too favourable to Ocado, and is expected to be renegotiated. A new element added to the original deal has let Morrisons off the large cost of buying equipment for a new warehouse.
Steiner has also missed his target of doing a similar deal with an overseas retailer by the end of last year. 
‘Ocado has to end up with a satisfactory negotiation with Morrisons on a new way forward, or I struggle to see how it can sell its services to other retailers,’ says retail expert Clive Black of Shore Capital.
‘Its business model might finally make sense, but only if it can get an agreement. It’s fair to say the company is at a critical moment — this is high-stakes stuff.’
Black, who has been a long-term critic of Ocado, is advising investors to sell the shares. Tim Steiner regards his divorce and new relationship as an entirely private matter, but with so much at stake shareholders have a legitimate interest in whether his mind is on the job.
‘We look at episodes like Tim Steiner’s on a case-by-case basis,’ says one City money manager. ‘If he was in a relationship with a 40-year-old lawyer, no one would care, but because he has taken up with a much younger model, it raises questions about his judgment.
‘This is undeniably a strange story, but in this instance I am convinced he is on top of the business. He is not a charming man to be around, but as an internet pioneer his achievement is pretty extraordinary.’
Others in the City, where the story is being endlessly picked apart over lunch tables, say the Ocado boss is being viewed with a good deal of sympathy. They feel the difficulties in his private life were testing, and that he had made huge efforts over many years to salvage his marriage.
But with trouble at home, as well as the pressure of making the numbers add up at work, it is perhaps no surprise if Tim’s mind drifted to figures of a different kind.
Before Patrycja met the shopping tycoon, she was an aspiring model whose portfolio included a series of seductive shots.
One shows her in thigh-high stockings and stilettos with the New York skyline in the background.
In another, she leans back in a chair wearing a form-fitting corset. A third depicts her long legs splayed as she bestrides a fire escape.
After finishing school in 2008, she seems to have acquired a taste for the high life. In 2010, she holidayed in Ibiza with British DJ Nicholas Duku, who advertises for ‘image models’ to work for him while he performs in venues around the world.
In adverts posted online, the DJ makes clear he is looking for ‘stunning’ women who will party with him and sell VIP packages to his shows.
After graduating from university, she trained to become a dental hygienist between 2011 and 2013. She ran for office in a local election in her hometown in 2014 on a platform of opening more pubs and clubs.
One of her former classmates says: ‘I’m not that surprised by what’s happened. She went abroad, had other experiences, I guess like a lot of Poles from small towns do. Perhaps I’m a bit surprised about the millionaire.’
It is not hard to divine what the balding, diminutive Steiner sees in leggy Patrycja — but it will prove a costly liaison.
‘Definitely, in this instance the wife will be looking for a multi-million-pound settlement,’ says Izzy Walsh, a divorce specialist at leading family law firm Vardags.
‘It is a long marriage that has produced four children. She has suffered the same trials and tribulations as him while the business was being built up.
‘Regardless of who the children live with, she will be expecting support for herself, which would be relatively large because she has been out of the workplace for a long time and is in her 40s.’
While both parties have declined to comment, the settlement will almost certainly run into the tens of millions of pounds, and could force Tim into a substantial share sale, as has been the case in other high-profile City divorce cases.
‘Tim will have to pay Belinda millions, but it is not something he is losing sleep over. That’s what happens in this kind of divorce,’ says one friend.
‘The idea this could distract him from the company or harm the business in some way is rubbish. It is not entirely unknown for a successful guy to have a very young girlfriend. Whatever else you say about Tim, he is totally focused on the business.’
He will need to be. The company wins plaudits from its devoted customers, but the UK grocery scene is ultra-competitive.
The traditional supermarkets are expanding their own internet operations, and Ocado faces a new threat from U.S. giant Amazon, which has ambitious plans to sell more food and household goods in the UK.
Whatever the future holds, the company he founded has brought Tim Steiner vast wealth, but there has been a tremendous personal cost. He must be hoping that his brightly coloured Ocado vans will finally deliver some happiness to him and Patrycja, as well as yet more large bundles of cash.