While the divorce proceedings of billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of the Amazon e-commerce platform, were done in a snap, in Vietnam, the divorce of Trung Nguyen chairman Dang Le Nguyen Vu and his wife Le Hoang Diep Thao is as slow as Vietnamese coffee drips.
At the court session in the afternoon of February 25, instead of quickly resolving the drawn-out divorce like Vu and Thao expected, the jury adjourned the hearing until March 1 when it will officially announce its decision.
The dispute over their VND8.4 trillion ($365.2 million) common property and Trung Nguyen Group’s stocks has made the divorce has been closely followed by the public in the past few days.
While Vu proposed sharing the company stock in a 70:30 ratio, Thao requested a 50:50 division. Specifically, Thao required ownership of 51 per cent of Trung Nguyen Investment JSC’s stocks, 15 per cent of Trung Nguyen Corporation JSC, and 7.5 per cent of Trung Nguyen Instant Coffee JSC. Vu did not agree with Thao’s request and stuck to his offered 70:30 ratio, claiming that he is the only founder and spirit of Trung Nguyen, while Thao only contributed by effort, not money to Trung Nguyen Group’s establishment.
Countering Vu’s argument, at last week’s trial session Thao produced evidence of a bank transfer of VND1 billion ($43,480) to Vu’s mother in 2005, which proved that Thao did indeed contribute capital to Trung Nguyen Group.
The dispute originally exploded in April 2015, when Vu suddenly dismissed Thao from her position as the group’s deputy general director. In a complaint sent to the Binh Duong People’s Court in November 2015, Thao said that in October of the same year Vu organised a board of management meeting without her to dismiss her from her positions as the chairman of the board of management and deputy general director.
Thao filed for divorce at the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court in November 2015.
Last year, a dispute between Trung Nguyen Group and Le Hoang Diep Thao, the group’s former deputy general director, also caused a stir as it has been revealed that the group’s subsidiary – Trung Nguyen Instant Coffee JSC (Trung Nguyen IC) – in mid-2017 sued Thao at the Bac Giang People’s Court for illegally seizing the company’s seals and the Bac Giang branch’s legal documents. Trung Nguyen IC asked Thao to pay a compensation of $75.2 million.
On May 16, 2017 Thao rejected Trung Nguyen IC as well as her husband Dang Le Nguyen Vu’s accusations. Thao argued that Vu was not Trung Nguyen IC’s legal representative because at the time Vu was the legal representative of Trung Nguyen Group, thus his dual representative positions would have led to a clash of interests and was against the company’s charter.
In August 2017, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court applied the urgent interim measures to ensure the joint ownership rights over their common assets, which include 93 per cent of Trung Nguyen Group’s tangible and intangible assets, including subsidiary Trung Nguyen IC.