Thai woman triumphs over son in High Court battle for family food empire. Dispute over ownership resolved in a London court. The Times reported the legal victory for Vanida Walker, 77, against her son in a multi-million pound catering business saga.

A Thai woman, who made her fortune in catering, has won a substantial victory in the High Court in London against her son. Judgement in the case was handed down by the High Court concerning the ownership of a sprawling food and property empire. A barrister for 77-year-old Vanida Walker told the court that shares held in valuable UK firms belonged to her. It was her business as she had provided the capital to establish it. In turn, the judge in the case found the evidence of her son, Mr Ekkachai Somboonsam, regarding an inheritance from his father in Thailand, did not stack up. Ms Vanida’s son, Ekkachai Somboonsam, had claimed that he was the founder and beneficial owner of the firm.

Ms Vanida Walker (centre right) substantially won her case over a £6 million family food and party empire before London’s High Court this week. In short, the court found that Mr Ekkachai Somboonsam (inset) was an employee of the concern while his mother, Ms Vanida, was the beneficial owner.

A judge at the High Court of Chancery in the United Kingdom has ruled in favour of a 77-year-old Thai woman who claimed ownership of a substantial catering business. The case was reported by The Times.

The plaintiff in the case was 77-year-old Ms Vanida Walker, who migrated to Britain from Thailand in 1973. The defendant was her 51-year-old son, Mr Ekkachai Somboonsam. 

51-year-old Thai man had claimed the nucleus of the family’s success lay in a takeaway and restaurant which he established in 2000 in St Pancras, London

At length, Mr Ekkachai, a chef, claimed that he had established the business in 2000. In addition, he claimed he had built it up as the nucleus of a family catering empire.

His barrister, Mr Robert Strang, told the court that the funds came from an inheritance in Thailand after Mr Ekkachai’s Thai father passed away.

At stake in the case were three companies listed as Anglo Thai, Finfish, and Thai Metro Catering. The family empire encompasses numerous restaurant and catering operations, along with a valuable property portfolio.

Mr Strang explained to the court that placing the shares in Ms Walker’s name was a protective legal manoeuvre. Mr Ekkachai was concerned that his first wife would lay claim to his holdings.

In short, Justice Malcolm Davis-White took issue with the defendant’s claims that the business funding came from an inheritance in Thailand.

The judge opined that Mr Ekkachai had ‘broke down’ under cross-examination, particularly on this issue.

Justice Davis-White questioned and then dismissed the defendant Mr Ekkachai’s testimony on receiving a substantial inheritance from his father in Thailand

In contrast, the judge was inclined to believe the testimony of Ms Walker. The plaintiff claimed that there was no substantial inheritance, as Mr Ekkachai’s Thai father was ‘comparatively poor’.

Overall, the judge viewed Mr Ekkachai as an employee of the firms owned by his mother. However, he did find that two properties within the portfolio were owned by the 51-year-old man. Ms Walker had claimed these as well.

The court heard that Ms Walker was a self-made woman who prospered after arriving in the United Kingdom from Thailand in 1973. Previously, she had worked as a cleaner before moving into the catering business.

Thai woman made a business breakthrough by providing catering to large music festivals such as Glastonbury

She had early breakthroughs by providing Thai food at music festivals such as Glastonbury. In time, she opened her first restaurant in southeast London.

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However, it appears that the Thai Metro was the flagship restaurant for the growing concern. Situated on Charlotte Street in the fashionable and much sought-after Fitzrovia area of central London, it proved extremely popular.

At one point, it was voted Britain’s most loved takeaway on the website Hungryhouse. This website was subsequently bought out and merged with Just Eat in 2018.

At this time, the Thai Metro page has a 4.5-star rating based on 47 reviews.

Ms Walker’s barrister told the court the shares were in her name in addition to the leases because the capital had been put up by her. It was her business

Representing the plaintiff, Mr Timothy Cowen, told the court that Ms Walker had taken all the leases in her own name. Additionally, she had invested the financial capital, making it unquestionably her business.

‘This was her business,’ he told the court.

In addition, the court heard that a disagreement between the mother and son had developed with ‘diametrically opposite’ legal positions being pursued by both.

The value of the business concern and property holdings was estimated to be at least £6 million.

The court ultimately found that Ms Walker’s son was an employee of the concern.

Massive legal bill to be decided later

Furthermore, Mr Ekkachai may now be facing a substantial bill for legal costs.

The court proceedings before the High Court of Chancery will not be cheap for the family. Normally, cases involve at least two or possibly three barristers on each side.

The accepted fee for a barrister is £10,000 for a three-day hearing with £3,000 per day in ‘refreshers’ on days two and three. This excludes fees for solicitors and pre-trial work on both sides. At the same time, leading barristers in commercial law can command substantially more in fees.

Such cases normally cost each party hundreds of thousands of pounds, with complex cases running into millions.

Certainly, Mr Ekkachai will be obliged to bear the overwhelming burden of the legal costs. In short, he substantially lost the case. It is normal for an order on costs to be given at a later stage.

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