Graceless lady, you know who I am.
You know I can’t let you slide through my hands….
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away. Wild, wild horses, we’ll ride them someday.
Mick Jagger, from Wild Horses
Jagger’s equine imagery turned that soulful 1971 ballad into a rock—and Rolling Stones—classic. But start him up on the poetry of love and horses these days, and he might well kick into Emotional Rescue or She’s So Cold. For while it may lack the wallop of a Charlie-Di marital spat or Prince Andy’s Caribbean Koo d’état, from Melbourne to Malibu there are signs that Mick’s curiously durable romance with supermodel Jerry Hall—a five-year union that has made them rock’s First Couple—may have shattered.
But if Hall, 26, has in fact jilted Jagger, 39, it was no wild rock stallion that dragged her off; rather, it was a beefy, reserved and phenomenally moneyed British-born horse breeder, Robert Sangster. The 46-year-old Sangster, regarded by many to be one of the most powerful figures in the world of horse racing, lives in tax exile on the Isle of Man and is building a mansion in Sydney, Australia with his second wife, Susan, 40.
The foursome met last June at a lavish lunch in Sangster’s box at England’s Royal Ascot races. Hall, a Texan, a horse lover and owner of several hundred Lone Star acres next to Mick’s similarly sized parcel, suddenly found herself in Thoroughbred heaven. The next month she and her sister accompanied Sangster—sans Mick and Susan—to the Keeneland yearling sales in Lexington, Ky.
In recent weeks Jagger has shown up stag at Manhattan parties and discos, often prowling around girls half his age—like debutante pal Cornelia Guest, 18 (PEOPLE, Oct. 11), and Gwynne Rivers, artist Larry’s 18-year-old daughter. Earlier this month Mick flew solo to Paris, where the band plans to cut its next studio LP.
Susan, who had been supervising the $1 million redecorating of the Sangsters’ new $6 million mansion overlooking Sydney Harbor, has left Australia and is believed to have returned to the Isle of Man. Sangster and Jerry rendezvoused in L.A. (booked at the Beverly Wilshire in neighboring suites)—she for modeling and he to tend to his bloodstock empire.
The English tabloids preyed on the pair, and the Aussie press has questioned the stability of the Sangster marriage. At this month’s gala Melbourne Cup Carnival, Sangster, who was accompanied by his wife, was described as “bored” and “stony-faced,” Susan as “dejected.” Meanwhile in Manhattan, Jagger and Jerry confused the gossips by cuddling warmly over dinner at Elaine’s just days before going their separate ways.
Sangster’s wife has dismissed all the rumors as “rubbish”; Jagger was initially mute, and Hall is said by one close friend to be so upset over the furor that “she’s gone into hiding.”
Yet one longtime friend of M & J admits, “I don’t think they’re together anymore. There are no hard feelings; they both contributed to it, if, in fact, it’s over.”
In Los Angeles last week Sangster told a reporter: “It is true that I have seen Jerry here, but I have not left my wife. She,” he went on to say of Susan, “has behaved with great dignity and common sense in a situation which is even tougher for her than it is for me.” As for Hall, Sangster conceded that “our current situation might set tongues wagging.” Jerry was quick to point out to a reporter that she had “no hard feelings toward Mick at all. I am sorry that what was intended as a private and possibly temporary parting has embarrassed him.” How is Mick taking it? “Obviously he is upset,” said Hall. “Who wouldn’t be, with so much wild gossip flying about?”
The Sangsters are no strangers to this sort of thing. When they met at a lunch in Sydney in 1975, she was wife to Australian Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock and mother of three daughters. Sangster and wife Christine lived in Cheshire with their four children.
The next year Susan and Sangster left their homes and flew off to live at Sangster’s 19th-century mansion, known as the Nunnery (because once it was), on the Isle of Man. He bought this Irish Sea property to escape Britain’s exorbitant income tax. The pair married in 1978 and traveled the world as one of the racing elite’s couples. They frequently held formal parties at the Nunnery, which Sangster had outfitted with electronic devices that enable him to monitor horse races around the globe on video screens. (Susan even crashed a black-tie, males-only affair at the Nunnery last month dressed as a nun.)
Why would the dazzling Hall want to stray from Jagger, surely among rock’s richest and most charismatic artists? Friends guess that after some two years with Roxy Music’s Brian Ferry and five with Mick, her “old lady” days in rock are over. One friend speculates that Mick’s “other affairs with women” could be behind a split. A New York model merely sniffs that Jerry is “real Texas with lots of trash and glitz.”
A horse trainer in Kentucky who has been associated with Sangster is more blunt. “Robert is marvelous, square-dealing, honest, unassuming and brilliant. We’re sick about it. It’s too bad this broad is trying to ruin his life. She’s boring and obviously after his money.” Yet Hall, talking about her daily routine as a model in a British magazine, observed only last August that climbing into bed at night with Mick was “the perfect end to a perfect day.” Still, London’s gadfly gossip Nigel Dempster now quotes Hall as saying, “Where could I go after Mick? Robert can buy him out 10 times over.” As Dempster sees it, “Jerry is fed up because Mick refuses to marry. There are times in the last five years when she has made relatively little money on her own because she has been traipsing behind a rock star, and she is worried about the future. She sees Robert Sangster as a great bridge to the future, but Sangster doesn’t yet know what he wants.”
If there’s no conclusive evidence on Hall’s motives, few could dispute her math. With his steeds in Australia and his stables in Ireland and England, Sangster owns upwards of 300 horses. His sometime partner and principal trainer, Vincent O’Brien, is one of the world’s best. This year Sangster became the first man to own horses that in one season won the Irish, French and English derbies—and he syndicated the two winners, Assert and Golden Fleece, for $55 million. Insiders on the circuit estimate the total value of his breeding empire well into the hundreds of millions. Mick, on the other hand, was said to be a so-so rider at best during the few trots he took with Jerry along the Central Park bridle path.
Not that Jagger’s hurting otherwise. His triumphal U.S. and European tours grossed an estimated $75 million in 1981-82, and the Stones’ album Tattoo You sold in the millions. But clearly, Sangster’s high rolling is astounding.
Hall got a taste of it when he invited her, with big sister Cyndy, also a model, to the Keeneland auction. Bidding for a dark bay colt sired by Nijinsky II opened at $50,000. Facing down a sheik, the Englishman, surrounded by the entourage affectionately known as Sangster’s Gangsters, got his year-old horse—for a record $4.25 million. The bidding lasted barely five minutes. “I knew I’d get that colt,” shrugged Sangster. “It was just a question of how much. This is all business. There is no room for sentiment.” Even an L.A. friend in the Jagger-Hall camp concedes: “The guy makes Mick look like he’s on welfare.”
While Jagger may have developed his rebellious, seemingly decadent stance in rock to mock his middle-class British background, Sangster was born into wealth. His father, Vernon, founded the Liverpool-based Vernon’s Pools, a legal soccer betting syndicate; Robert inherited $30 million.
Rather than attend college, Sangster entered his father’s business and became managing director by his 30s; in the early ’70s he moved seriously into racing. His hunches began to pay off in 1977 when one of his horses, the Minstrel, won four major European races and was syndicated for $9 million. Since then Sangster has bought mostly in the U.S. because “Americans breed for speed.”
Susan Sangster is certain her husband will return to Sydney in time for a family Christmas celebration. And if the enchantment with a horse-racing tycoon dies out for Hall, she can at least test a remark she made last summer. Partying backstage with Jagger’s parents and the Stones’ families at the group’s tumultuous homecoming concert at Wembley Stadium, Hall glowed as she told friends she and Mick had just marked their fifth year together. “He’s the greatest boyfriend in the world,” she boasted. “He’s so understanding.”
This story was written by Jim Jerome and reported by Linda Marx in New York, John Dunn in Melbourne and Jerene Jones in London.