BROWSE COUNTRIES/ TERRITORIES
Little Sweetie's fortune
The tussle over Nina Wang's billions shows that when there is a will, there is a fight.
When she was alive, Nina Wang, the richest woman in Asia, was plagued by wills—those made by her husband disowning her and reinstating her, and those allegedly forged by her to claim his billions. After her death from ovarian cancer at the age of 69 in April, the issue of a will continues to plague her estate.
For weeks now, Hong Kong residents have watched the fight for Wang’s estate with bated breath. It is estimated to be worth as much as HK$40 billion and includes not only some of the choicest properties in Hong Kong but also shares in a gold mine in Central Asia, a large Taiwanese shipping firm, a life science firm listed in the US and numerous other companies.
Wang is said to have pledged all her assets to a foundation set up by her husband and herself in 1988, to be used for high- minded charitable purposes. But feng shui master Tony Chan Chun Chuen has issued a statement claiming that he is the sole beneficiary.
To muddy the water further, the solicitor for Chan is Haldanes, which had acted for Nina Wang in her long fight against her estranged father-in-law over the will and estate of her late husband, Teddy, who was kidnapped in 1990 and has never been seen again.
The fight of Wang vs Wang, which lasted eight years, was one of the most expensive legal battles in Hong Kong’s history. It could very well be eclipsed by the current struggle for Nina Wang’s estate.
Nina Wang married Teddy at age 18 and until his disappearance she was very much a housewife. In 1968 Teddy discovered Nina was having an affair and set up his first will naming his father as the main beneficiary. After his disappearance Nina produced a new will, made a month before the kidnapping, with herself as the inheritor. Six years later Wang senior discovered the 1968 will and sued. The ensuing fight lasted for eight years with Nina at one point accused of forging the will and in danger of losing Chinatrust. In 2005 the court eventually found in her favour, and her father-in-law, then 94, walked away with nothing. Nina died two years later.
Talk is that it is likely Nina Wang’s estate will be disposed of according to her will, which was disclosed by “a close friend” to selected media. This would make Nina the biggest philanthropist in Asia, and certainly one of the most low profile. In Hong Kong, it has been customary for tycoons such as Li Ka-shing to make a big fuss over their donations. Wang and Robert Kuok, of Shangri-la fame, are the rare exceptions.
But if the feng shui master’s claim turns out to be valid, Asian charities will lose a huge sum of money and gain a new tycoon who would rank among the top 10 richest people on the continent. Is the trade off worthwhile? The answer is obvious.
Lee Han Shih is the founder, publisher and editor of asia! Magazine.
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