Costly split

China’s richest young couple end up in expensive divorce

Zhou Yahui w

Zhou Yahui: tycoon’s divorce cost him Rmb7 billion

Divorce is costly, not just emotionally but also financially. For Zhou Yahui, the split from his wife has even broken a record.

Last week, a court in Beijing ordered Zhou to transfer nearly 300 million shares of Beijing Kunlun Tech – the internet game developer he founded – to his wife, Li Qiong.

The move quickly prompted speculation that the two had split up. One company insider soon confirmed to Caijing magazine that the two had filed for a divorce: “We don’t know the specific reason for the divorce. We are guessing that Zhou Yahui was too busy working and often neglected his family.”

Based on the most recent stock price, Li’s shares are now worth about Rmb7 billion ($1.04 billion). The huge equity transfer renders the split the most expensive divorce settlement in China to date that’s involved an A-share company (the company is listed on Shenzhen’s ChiNext), Sina Finance suggests. The previous record was in 2012 when Yuan Jinhua, co-founder of Sany, the heavy machinery maker, paid his ex-wife Rmb2.3 billion in company stock in a settlement.

To be fair, Li stuck with Zhou through some difficult times. The two met in elementary school (it is not known when they were married), long before Zhou, 39, struck gold with online gaming. Prior to that, he had founded a social media platform that closed down after four years because it failed to gain traction (see WiC325). In an interview two years ago, Zhou recalled that he used to order egg fried rice for lunch every day because it cost only Rmb3.

But for the company’s investors, Shanghai Securities News says, the equity transfer won’t much affect the day-to-day operations of the gaming firm. Zhou will remain as chairman and the biggest shareholder (he retains 34.5%). Li also won’t be allowed to sell her shares until 2018 since Zhou had pledged when the company went public last year that the senior management would maintain their stake in the firm for the next three years.

Still, Zhou’s divorce, though costly, is not the most expensive separation in Chinese corporate history. In 2012 Wu Yajun, who founded the property developer Longfor Properties with her former husband Cai Kui, saw her wealth tumble by nearly $3 billion after she transferred about 40% of her Hong Kong-listed shares in the company to Cai.

For more on Zhou, see our recent profile in the new edition of

China’s Tycoons, which can

be downloaded at:

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