Laura Ashley boss faces battle with ex-wife over £100m for ‘equal contribution’ to marriage

Published: 14th March 2017

The ex-wife of a Laura Ashley boss has argued that she made an equal contribution to her marriage with her former husband, stating that she helped to generate the wealth of her husband by playing the role of a ‘traditional’ wife. The 70-year-old ex-wife is fighting over millions with ex-husband Khoo Kay Peng, 78, in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

Pauline Chai is hoping to acquire more than £100m from her marriage to Dr Khoo, after claiming that their asset kitty is worth at least £205m, of which she believes she should receive half.

Mr Justice Bodey heard that Dr Khoo, who is a non-executive chairman of Laura Ashley Holdings, believes his former wife is entitled to just £9m. However, the barrister representing Ms Chai, Richard Todd QC, said that Dr Khoo would suggest that he made a special contribution to the generation of his wealth due to the ‘business genius’ that he possesses. He also said that Ms Chai had made an equal contribution by looking after their five children and the family home.

It was claimed by Ms Chai that she owned half of the ‘family’s business empire’, after suggesting that she and Dr Khoo had made a sharing agreement. Ms Chai also continued to say that her ex-husband was the ‘paper owner’ but ‘in substance’ assets were ‘jointly owned’ and she then continued to inform Mr Justice Bodey that she viewed marriage in a ‘traditional’ way as a partnership between a ‘breadwinner’ husband and a housewife. She suggested that it was a daunting task for her, but that Dr Khoo had frequently told her ‘what’s mine is yours’ and that their marriage was ‘a partnership’.

Ms Chai acknowledged that ‘he was in business and I didn't really get into business’ but that ‘I did my job looking after the house and the family and the children’ and ‘made a full and equal contribution" to their 42-year-long marriage.

Mr Todd added that, despite recognising that he had been very successful within business, Ms Chai did not think that Dr Khoo was a business ‘genius’.

He then concluded that Ms Chai had contributed as much as Dr Khoo to their marriage and that because she had ‘shouldered the burden of [caring for theirchildren]... the husband had been freed up. It's a special contribution in its own right. It matches, or even exceeds, the special contribution which is said to be put forward by [Dr Khoo].’

The hearing for this particular case is expected to last several weeks, with the judge having begun analysing the evidence in early March 2017, with both Dr Khoo and Ms Chai present.

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