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Ex-wife of Laura Ashley boss wants £100m for 'equal contribution' to marriage

A 70-year-old former beauty queen embroiled in a divorce cash battle with a millionaire Laura Ashley boss says she made an equal contribution to generating wealth by being a "traditional" wife.

Malaysian mother-of-five Pauline Chai is fighting over millions with ex-husband Khoo Kay Peng, 78, at a trial in the Family Division of the High Court in London following the breakdown of their 42-year marriage.

A judge began analysing evidence on Thursday and the hearing is expected to last some weeks.

Ms Chai, of 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, Mr Justice Bodey has heard.

A barrister representing Ms Chai, who was Miss Malaysia 1969, outlined competing arguments.

Richard Todd QC indicated that Dr Khoo, who is also Malaysian and lives in his home country, would argue that he had made a special contribution to generating wealth because of his business genius.

But Mr Todd said Ms Chai had made an equal contribution by shouldering the domestic burden.

Ms Chai told the judge that she and Dr Khoo had made an sharing agreement - and she said she owned half of the "family's business empire".

She said he was the "paper owner" but "in substance" assets were "jointly owned".

"I looked at marriage in the traditional way," Ms Chai told Mr Justice Bodey.

"He is the breadwinner and I stayed at home and looked after the children.

"It was a daunting task."

Ms Chai said Dr Khoo had "always" told her "what's mine is yours'".

"That's what he told me many times over the marriage," Ms Chai told Mr Justice Bodey.

"This is a partnership."

She said she had made a "full and equal contribution in a long marriage".

Ms Chai added: "He was in business and I didn't really get into business. I did my job looking after the house and the family and the children."

Mr Todd said Ms Chai did not think that Dr Khoo was a business "genius".

"(She) recognises that Dr Khoo has been an extremely successful and talented businessman," he told the judge.

"A lot of people have been extremely successful in business without going into that extra realm of genius, which would justify a special contribution."

He said, in any event, Ms Chai had matched Dr Khoo's contribution.

"42 years married, five children," he said.

"She shouldered the burden of these children ... the husband has 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)."

Both Dr Khoo and Ms Chai, whose children are grown-up, were at the hearing.

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