A former Malaysian beauty queen has been awarded a £64 million divorce payout after a bitter legal battle which her lawyer has described as a victory for the ‘home maker’.
A High Court judge ruled yesterday that Pauline Chai should receive the huge settlement - one of the largest in history - after 42 years’ marriage to the chairman of the Laura Ashley fashion business.
Legal costs alone had already reached more than £6 million a year ago. The final bill will easily exceed that.
Ms Chai, who was Miss Malaysia in 1969, had demanded half of her ex-husband Khoo Kay Peng’s £205 million fortune.
Ms Chai, 70, had insisted she made an equal contribution by fulfilling her role as a “traditional” wife.
Dr Khoo, 78, the non-executive chairman of Laura Ashley Holdings, had wanted to give her just £9 million following their split on Valentine’s Day 2013.
The settlement announced by Mr Justice Bodey will be seen as striking a blow in favour of ‘stay at home’ wives.
“He is the breadwinner and I stayed at home and looked after the children,” Ms Chai had told an earlier hearing.
Ms Chai, who lives in a £30 million mansion in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, had married Dr Khoo, who is also Malaysian, in 1970 and the couple went on to have five children.
The legal costs began to escalate when Dr Khoo fought - and lost - a bid to have the divorce decided in the Malaysian courts where Ms Chai’s settlement would have been far less favourable.
She won the right to have the case heard in London, arguing the Hertfordshire mansion was their main home, where she stored her collection of a thousand pairs of shoes in bedrooms, a corridor and the basement.
Mr Justice Bodey’s detailed ruling on who gets what is expected to be published in the near future.
He had analysed the case at a private hearing but said journalists could name Dr Khoo and Ms Chai and report some information.
The judge has barred reporters from revealing confidential financial material.
Divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag, who represented Ms Chai, said: “This litigation has been long and arduous. It is a journey which has now ended in the affirmation of the principle of fair sharing.
“It emphasises that there is no place in England for discrimination between home maker and bread winner.
“I am so proud of the whole team, including our client who worked so hard on this case.”
Ms Chai added: “I just want to thank my superb legal team - everyone at Vardags, Richard Todd QC and Nicholas Yates. Thank you.”