News | Legal News

13 March 2017

Judge urges Laura Ashley chief and ex-wife to negotiate in divorce

A High Court judge has told a Laura Ashley boss and his and ex-wife to try to settle their differences despite years of fighting in courts.

Malaysian mother-of-five Pauline Chai, 70, and her ex-husband 78-year-old Khoo Kay Peng are fighting over tens of millions of pounds at a trial in the Family Division of London's High Court following the breakdown of their 42-year marriage.

Mr Justice Bodey began analysing evidence on Thursday March 9, and the hearing is expected to last some weeks.

Ms Chai, a former beauty queen who lives in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, wants to walk away with more than £100 million.

She says their asset kitty is at least £205 million and she should get a 50% share.

Dr Khoo, non-executive chairman of Laura Ashley Holdings, says Ms Chai should pocket about £9 million, the judge has heard.

Ms Chai and Dr Khoo, who both come from Malaysia, married in 1970 and have five children, have spent more than £6 million between them on lawyers since their marriage broke down, judges have heard.

The pair could not agree on whether decisions about who got what should be made in English or Malaysian courts, and litigation was launched in both countries.

Dr Khoo, who is based in Malaysia, said the marital home was in Malaysia and said a judge in Malaysia should make decisions about the division of money.

He says Ms Chai is a "forum shopper" and wants to fight in England because an English judge will give her a more generous award.

Ms Chai, who was Miss Malaysia 1969, said they had moved their home to Berkhamsted before separating and therefore decisions should be made in an English court.

In December 2015, Ms Chai claimed victory in the fight over jurisdiction following a ruling by three Court of Appeal judges in London.

Mr Justice Bodey told the pair that they could still settle differences and urged them to negotiate.

"You are not in the first flush of youth," he said.

"If arrangements were made, you could live the rest of your lives in considerable comfort."

The hearing is due to continue on Wednesday.

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