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Chinese tycoon gives wife US$1.1 billion in huge divorce settlement

Chinese billionaire Zhou Yahui, who bought a controlling stake in the world’s biggest gay dating app earlier this year, is giving shares worth the equivalent of about US$1.1 billion to his wife in what is thought be one of the highest divorce settlements in China.

Zhou is transferring 278 million shares worth about 7 billion yuan (HK$8.1 billion) he directly and indirectly owns to his wife Li Qiong after the two made the settlement in a civil court in Beijing, his online gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech said in a statement.

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Zhou and his wife were named earlier this year as the richest young Chinese billionaires in a survey compiled by the magazine Hurun Report. It estimated their assets were then worth US$3.5 billion.

Their divorce settlement has prompted a debate among internet users in China.

Some said it was generous of Zhou to give up half of his assets in the company, while others thought his wife was fully entitled to the payout.

“Without your wife, maybe you wouldn’t have today’s success,” one social media user commented. “To put it in another way, the wife has lost half her money to the husband.”

Kunlun made headlines in January by acquiring a controlling stake in gay dating app Grindr.

The highest previous divorce settlement involving a listed company in China reported by mainland media was made by Yuan Jinhua, the vice-president of Shanghai-listed machinery manufacturer Sany Heavy. He gave his former wife 2.4 billion yuan in 2012.

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An increasing number of Chinese couples choose to end their marriages every year as society becomes more tolerant of divorce.

About 3.8 million couples filed for divorced last year, according to latest data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

In 2001, two years before Beijing dropped a rule requiring that employers approve divorces, only 528,000 couples registered to break up.

Divorce cases involving prominent company executives in China have attracted great attention from investors.

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After the former wife of Gary Wang, the chief executive of the video-sharing site Tudou , sought control of some of his shares in 2010 it hindered the company from getting listed in the United States, according to media reports at the time.

Wang Shi, the 65-year-old real estate tycoon who founded China Vanke, divorced his wife in 2012 with no details of the settlement released publicly.

Wang is now in a high-profile relationship with an actress more than 30 years his junior.