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Laura Ashley heiress Angeline Khoo gives it all up for love

Written by Shruti Misra

All you need is love and that is what drove an heir to the Laura Ashley Holdings fashion and home furnishing fortune to renounce her inheritance when she chose to marry the man of her choice having not received her father’s approval.

What makes this story more interesting is that the woman is Angeline Francis Khoo and her father is Malaysian tycoon Khoo Kay Peng, who owns the MUI Group and is chairman and major shareholder of Laura Ashley.

He has been previously reported to be worth more than £440 million, a figure that was revealed by the lawyers representing his former wife Pauline Chai during their long-drawn divorce settlement proceedings which took place in both the United Kingdom and Malaysia.

‘I hope Dad can let go of his anger and we can have a warm relationship,’ says Angeline.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Angeline spoke of how she met her husband, Caribbean-born data scientist Jedidiah Francis, while studying at Oxford, but that when she told her father she wanted to marry him, he refused to give her his blessing.

“I believed Dad’s stance was wrong, so there was no question about what was right.

“I’ve been fortunate to have that perspective, that you can have money and it’s a blessing, but it allows you to do things and gives you options, but there are also things that come with it, such as control.

Angeline in front of Rossway Park, the 15-bedroom family home.

“Money amplifies negative characteristics and that can cause problems. To walk away from that was actually very easy. I didn’t even consider it,” Angeline was quoted as saying by the UK daily.

She added that she had been groomed to take over the Laura Ashley business, having served in various departments since her teenage years, in between her university holidays.

However, having lived in the UK, she admitted that her father did not play an integral part in her childhood and that she and her four siblings, two of whom have special needs, only saw him once or twice a year when he was not on business, according to Telegraph.

Referring to the issue of control, Angeline reveals that was the only reason behind the messy divorce settlement case that eventually saw her mother Chai, receiving a £64 million settlement from a London court in April this year.

Angeline met her husband, Caribbean-born data scientist Jedidiah Francis, while studying at Oxford, but that when she told her father she wanted to marry him, he refused to give her his blessing.

“In these situations with so much money often people are, like, ‘I don’t get it. Why are they fighting over so much?’

“But it’s not really about the money, it’s about control and losing that control. That’s something that a lot of people can’t grasp because you’re discussing finances way beyond your basic needs,” Angeline was quoted as saying, referring to what was one of the largest settlements in history.

During the court proceedings, Angeline was the only witness called and admitted it was “not a nice situation”.

She also disputed that her mother had owned 1,000 pairs of shoes, as claimed by her father’s lawyers in court.

Angeline Francis Khoo and her mother, Pauline Chai.

“My mother was actually quite frugal, choosing to dye her own hair rather than go to the hairdressers,” Angeline said.

She said she has since followed her own path in fashion design, having established her own fashion business and hopes one day, her father might “let go of his anger” so they could enjoy a cordial relationship.

Khoo, 78, married Chai, 70, in 1970 but their divorce case since 2012 had been shuttling between the UK and Malaysia.

In April last year, the Federal Court ruled that Malaysia should be where the couple’s divorce was decided because a wife’s residing country has to follow her husband’s and will be the place where a divorce is decided.

However, following a court ruling in London on Jan 27, granting a decree nisi (absolute) to formally end their marriage, the case was eventually settled in the UK.

The £64 million settlement last April was less than the £100 million that Chai had wanted but more than the £9 million Khoo had offered her initially.

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Shruti Misra

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