British Formula One playboy Jenson Button has admitted his altercation with Sir Richard Branson after the Virgin founder touched Button’s then-girlfriend’s face. The incident occurred in 2009 after the Australian Grand Prix when Button had just begun dating Japanese model Jessica Michibata, 32. The couple would go on today until 2014 when they became engaged. They married that year in December in Hawaii. Though one year later their divorce would come through. Button’s revelation of Sir Richard Branson’s inappropriate behavior came as the McLaren-Honda driver has been serializing his upcoming autobiography in the Daily Telegraph newspaper in the United Kingdom.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Button Said that Branson Was ‘Very, Very Drunk’
In his book, Button wrote that Branson was “very, very drunk.” The incident occurred at the Japanese restaurant Nobu. At the time, Branson was one of Button’s main sponsors. Button said that Branson had made Michibata feel very “uncomfortable” while the driver was in the bathroom. The serialization reads:
His Royal Highness Sir Richard Branson was arriving. And he was very, very drunk. I had to make a toilet visit so I didn’t see what happened next, which was that he leaned over to Jessica and told her, “Stop staring at me.” She pointed out that she wasn’t staring at him. “Stop staring at me,” he insisted.
Although Jessica was a model she was quite shy, so this was making her feel uncomfortable. Especially when Sir Richard followed up his blatant flirting by putting his hand on her face.
His Excellency with his hand on my girlfriend’s face. “Hold on,” I said, “That’s enough. That’s well out of order.”
In response to the allegations, a Virgin statement said that Branson wrote about the incident in his own book. The billionaire gave up drinking after the incident.
2. During Their Marriage, Button & Michibata Suspected They May Have Been Gassed in Their Home by Thieves
During their relationship, Button and Michibata suspected that they were gassed through an air conditioning system by robbers in August 2015, reported the Guardian. The incident occurred in St. Tropez in the south of France while the couple was staying with friends. The thieves made off with Michibata’s engagement ring that was worth $330,000.
Experts disputed the gassing claim, Dr. Liam Brennan of the Royal College of Anesthetists told Sky News at the time, “We find it very difficult to understand how anesthetic agents could be delivered in the concentrations required to produce that sort of effect.”
The couple split a few months later. Button said in a statement, “Jenson and Jessica have decided to go their separate ways and it is very amicable. There is no-one else involved.” Button had told the media shortly before the split, “We don’t see each other any more than before we were married.”
Just after their wedding, Michibata told Hello Magazine, “[The wedding] was very private and intimate. We wrote our own vows because we wanted to say something that was personal to just the two of us. I designed my owen dress – something very simple and modest – and I could hear my sisters crying at several points during the service.”
3. Michibata Is Having a Baby With Movie Producer Ken Kao
Michibata is having a baby with movie producer Ken Kao. Around the time that the Branson story hit, Michibata posted a photo of her pregnancy belly to Instagram writing, “Feeling bigger and bigger day by day! Currently having some serious acid reflux. Anyone else struggling with it? #preggoprobs.”
The couple first announced themselves publicly at the 74th Venice International Film Festival. In June 2017, Ken Kao and Ryan Gosling announced that they had started a production company, Arcana, together, reported Variety.
4. Michibata Began Her Modeling Career at the age of 13
Michibata is a native of Fukui, Japan. Her father is Argentinian and her mother is Italian. Her two sisters, elder Linda Karen, and younger, Angelica Patricia, are also models. At one point during her career, Michibata was the premier model for lingerie giant Peach John.
On her official profile, Michibata says that she began her modeling career at the age of 13. The bio continues, “Through self-study of language and other cultures, Jessica has developed an international lifestyle that defies the boundaries, and allows her to move freely and comfortably between Japan and other countries.”
5. Button Is Now Dating Californian Model Brittny Ward
In 2016, Button began dating former Playboy model Brittny Ward. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Ward was seen with Button at Melbourne International Airport in preparation for the Australian Grand Prix in March 2016. The California-born model first gained international attention as a ring girl for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Prior to dating Michibata, Button had been engaged to actress Louise Griffiths for five years until May 2005.
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