High Price Of Divorce: Wife Of SK Chairman Wants More Than $1 Billion

The estranged wife of SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, South Korea’s ninth richest man with a fortune valued at $2.8 billion, stands to gain $1.2 billion in SK shares if her lawsuit proves successful.

That’s the value of 42.3% of Chey’s shareholding in SK Holdings which Roh Soh-Yeong is seeking in Seoul Family Court in her response to a divorce suit filed by her husband more than two years ago.

Roh’s counterclaim is the latest chapter in a long-running saga. Chey has acknowledged girlfriends in the past and now is living with another partner, Kim Hee-Young, chairman of the T&C Foundation, with whom he has a daughter.

Roh, who runs an art gallery, had initially refused the divorce but decided it was “time to let my husband find the ‘happiness’ he so desperately wants,” as she posted on Facebook. She said she had dedicated their marriage to “raising a family and trying to protect it” but “lost that hope.” Together they have three children.

If Roh were to get as much as she is asking, Chey would be left with a 10.6% stake in SK holdings, down from his current holdings of 18.4%, while she would hold 7.8%, up from her current share of 0.01%. Together, they would rank as the first- and second-biggest stakeholders in the central company of the SK empire.

Roh is not expected to get that much in a case fraught with implications for the future of SK, Korea’s third-largest chaebol or conglomerate, made up of nearly 100 companies. These include SK Telecom, Korea’s largest phone service provider, and SK Hynix, which ranks after Samsumg Electronics as Korea’s second-largest producer of semiconductors. 

Chey, however, is no stranger to the law. He’s been jailed twice for misappropriating funds and twice received pardons from the country’s presidents–first from Lee Myung-Bak and then Park Geun-Hye, both of whom were later jailed in corruption scandals. The current president, Moon Jae-in, defeated by Park in the 2012 presidential election, was elected president in May 2017 after Park was impeached, ousted and sentenced to a lengthy term, which she’s appealing.  

Roh is the daughter of another former president, Roh Tae-woo, a former general who held office from 1993 to 1998. Chey is the nephew of SK founder Chey Jong-Kun and son of Chey-Hong-Hyun, who served as group chairman.

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