Special contributions made to the Laura Ashley fortune

Pauline Chai, the former Miss Malaysia 1969 winner, is pursuing a half share of the family assets in the High Court, following the breakdown of her marriage to Dr Khoo Kay Peng, non-executive chairman of Laura Ashley Holdings. The mother of five has rejected the proposal made by Dr Peng of a £9 million settlement, based on his special contributions to the family’s wealth, arguing that she should receive an equal share of the assets, estimated at £205 million, following the parties’ 42 year marriage.

In outlining their respective positions to the court, Dr Khoo has argued that he has made a “special contribution” to the matrimonial finances, utilising his business genius to generate the family’s wealth. Mrs Chai stated that she felt an equal contribution had been made, in shouldering the domestic burden, supporting her husband and children. Mrs Chai also stated that she did not think that Dr Khoo was a business “genius”. She told the judge that Dr Khoo has been “…an extremely successful and talented businessman, (but) a lot of people have been extremely successful in business without going into that extra realm of genius, which would justify a special contribution.”

Mrs Chai further argued that she had matched Dr Khoo’s contribution during 42 years of marriage with five children, Mrs Chai felt that she shouldered the burden of these children, allowing her husband to be freed up to focus on business affairs. Mrs Chair felt that this was 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.

Almost a year ago, the financial settlement of a fellow fashion guru Nick Robinson, founder of ASOS, saw similar arguments submitted to the court, with Mrs Robinson securing a settlement of around a third of the parties’ £220 million assets. Such cases are always difficult to assess, given an acknowledgement that the generation of such substantial wealth must require some form of special ability, otherwise, would we not all be multi-millionaires. In Charman [2006] the court clarified that such special contribution factors must be “hard to generate”, although it is yet to be seen if Dr Khoo’s special contribution is special enough.

Serving London, Bedford and Northampton, our lawyers can help you with your family law and divorce matters. If you would like to speak to one of our team to discuss your matrimonial finances, contact us today on 0207 177 9777 or 01234 889777.

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