China has its first celebrity divorce

China has its first celebrity divorce

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SAN DIEGO, March 3, 2012 – Americans aren’t the only ones fascinated by celebrity divorce news.

All of China is talking about a messy divorce case playing out in the media between 49-year-old investment group president Zhao Bingxian, and his wife of 24 years, Lu Juan.

Zhao is known as China’s Warren Buffet. But his divorce case has tarnished his image. He is a self-proclaimed Buffett fan who follows the strategies of the American investment guru. Does this mean he’s as rich as Buffet? Well, not quite since Buffet is considered the third richest man in the world by Forbes Magazine with a net worth of $39 billion, but Zhao is doing just fine.

Lu is fighting for half of the family’s assets. She says she isn’t sure how much money there is, but the published estimates agree it is well over $310 million U.S. (2 billion yuan). It would be the most expensive divorce in Chinese history.

The public has been riveted to every new detail of the story reported in the newspapers. The Beijing Morning Post reports Lu has accused Zhao of domestic abuse and cheating on her with other women. In addition to the monetary settlement, Lu also wants full custody of the couple’s nine-year-old son. They also have a 23-year-old daughter.

Lu is also providing plenty of details on her blog. She says she is anxious to finish the divorce process and has been revealing more about their relationship in an attempt to shame Zhao into cooperating.

Lu writes that when the family started to become wealthy, her husband turned violent. She said his outbursts and abuse grew worse after the birth of their son in 2003.  Lu describes tantrums, beatings, and fits of rage when he heard his then baby son crying.

Lu told the Legal Evening News that she called the police in 2009 and again in 2010 after severe beatings by Zhao, but she said officers refused to intervene because it was a “family dispute.”

“Work and social pressure had a serious effect on my husband after he became rich,” said Ms Lu in a statement. “He seldom came home because he had many mistresses and he resorted to domestic violence against me and the children.” Lu says many of the women called her over the years.

Lu also wrote that she was an equal manager in the couple’s investment firm, and that she had supported the entire family while Zhao studied for his master’s degree in finance at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The Beijing Evening News quoted Lu as saying she had filed for divorce in July 2010 but had to withdraw the suit after Zhao failed to show up for three hearings, citing business trips and illness. She filed another divorce suit in August last year, but Zhao again failed to attend the hearing. “My divorce lawsuit proceeding is far more difficult than others just because my husband was called the Buffett of China,” Lu said on her blog.

Lu says she was so frustrated, she tried to seize corporate documents from the company’s safe in an attempt to force Zhao to go to court. Zhao called the police and Lu was arrested and detained for 37 days.

The couple married in 1988 when they were serving in the army. After they were discharged in 1993, they founded their first company and earned their “first bucket of gold” in China’s emerging stock market.

After years of trading, the family assets have snowballed and now include more than half of the total shares in Wohua Pharmaceutical; and a major stock holdings in Luolai Home Textile and Shanghai Guangdian Electric.

As China becomes more Westernized, the divorce rate has risen.

Lu and Zhao have become a high-profile symbol of China’s surge in divorce. Their acrimonious split shows how affluent wives are striking back against a culture of mistresses and neglect. Some are staging “divorce ceremonies” like many Americans, complete with wedding gowns, photographers and champagne.

Last year, 2.1 million couples were divorced, according to China’s Civil Affairs ministry. Once rare, divorce cases have doubled in a decade. In Beijing, one in five marriages now ends in divorce. This is still far under the U.S. rate of divorce, which is forty percent for first marriages.

Newspapers have commented on this new trend in China’s business community that couples stay together through thick and thin but not richness and joy. The quick fortunes that can be made in China’s rapidly changing society has also led to rapid updating of the meaning of happiness, something universal no matter what your nationality.

Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra.

Copyright © 2014 by Fleischer & Ravreby, Attorneys at Law

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