Property tycoon Samuel Tak Lee challenges HK$1.4b awarded to son’s ex-wife Florence Tsang Chiu-wing

Tycoon father and son face off against ex-wife again in lurid saga of excess and recriminations

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 4:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 8:59am

A court yesterday began hearing an appeal by the billionaire patriarch of the Prudential Enterprise property empire and his son against a judge's decision to award the son's ex-wife a record HK$1.4 billion divorce settlement.

Samuel Tak Lee and son Samathur Li Kin-kan argued that Li's former wife should get just HK$524 million - the amount a judge found she would need to fund the lifestyle she enjoyed during her marriage.

In a cross appeal, Florence Tsang Chiu-wing, who is a solicitor, will argue that she should be awarded half of marital assets, worth HK$6.5 billion.

Samuel Lee is the head of Prudential Enterprise, which has vast global real estate investments and owns the Prudential Hotel in Nathan Road, Jordan.

The case attracted extensive media coverage in 2011 and gave the public a rare glimpse into the extravagance of the seriously rich. The court heard Li lavished more than HK$100 million a year on himself and at one point owned a Boeing business jet, two yachts, 28 cars and millions of dollars' worth of wine.

Their eight-year marriage broke down in 2008 after Tsang refused her husband's demand for an abortion, then discovered he was having an affair.

The case took a twist when the trial judge referred the case to the Department of Justice after he found that the two men had forged a loan agreement that transferred virtually all of the son's assets to his father.

In the Court of Appeal yesterday, Martin Pointer QC, for the son, said the trial judge was wrong to have adopted the "sharing approach" in deciding to grant Tsang 20 per cent of the couple's total assets, which included HK$6.4 billion from Li.

Much of Li's wealth was tied up in property in Japan, including shops in Tokyo rented by brands such as Prada, Audi, H&M and Zara. Li said his father had exercised a right to buy these properties to stop his ex-wife getting her hands on his money.

Pointer said trial judge Mr Justice John Saunders was wrong to have ruled that the father had not bought them.

"There is no dispute about the fact that the [agreements] were designed to protect the Li family assets from a financial claim in the event of a divorce," he said.

Pointer said it had been the father's intention to prevent "another man's daughter" taking any of the wealth he had built up. The properties should not be considered the son's assets.

Pointer also said Mr Justice Saunders had been unfair to the two men in finding that they had forged a loan agreement without hearing oral evidence from the son, the father or the wife.

The court heard that the judge originally awarded HK$1.2 billion to Tsang but later raised it to HK$1.4 billion after correcting errors in calculation. Tsang said she had received US$26 million so far. She had also received HK$26 million for their daughter. The father and son were not in court.

The case continues today.