Owner of Link group sued over 'breach of duties'

Mrs Tan-Leo is the sole owner of Link Boutique, Alldressedup International and Living the Link.
Mrs Tan-Leo is the sole owner of Link Boutique, Alldressedup International and Living the Link.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Liquidators for one of her companies say she stripped away its assets to avoid liability

Fashion retailer Tina Tan-Leo, 55, appeared in the High Court yesterday to defend a $7 million lawsuit brought by the liquidators of one of the companies under her Link group for alleged breach of fiduciary duties.

Mrs Tan-Leo is the sole owner of the three luxury fashion companies: Link Boutique, Alldressedup International and Living the Link.

In May 2010, she took steps to wind up Living the Link, a luxury fashion and lifestyle shop, which was not profitable and became insolvent by end 2008 - a little under two years after it was set up.

But liquidators Chia Soo Hien and Leow Quek Shiong found that while Living the Link was insolvent, Mrs Tan-Leo had transferred cash and assets from it to Link Boutique and Alldressedup.

Among other things, inventory with a book value totalling $2.6 million was moved to Alldressedup and Link Boutique on Dec 31, 2008.

Cash payments of $3.87 million were also made to Link Boutique throughout 2008. Between May 2008 and July 2009, Living the Link also paid about $98,000 for the personal expenses of Mrs Tan-Leo and her husband, Lionel.

In June 2012, the liquidators filed a lawsuit against her, Link Boutique and Alldressedup, alleging that she had breached her duties to Living the Link with these transfers. The pair sought to set aside the transactions "tainted by undue preferences and undervalues", said their lawyer, Mr Suresh Nair, in his opening statement yesterday.

He contended that Mrs Tan-Leo had "stripped" Living the Link of all its assets to avoid liability as she had provided personal guarantees for its banking facilities.

"The evidence will show that when times got bad, Tina Tan decided to forsake her duties as director of (Living the Link) to mitigate her own personal losses, and she chose to saddle (Living the Link) with expenses it ought not to have borne," said Mr Nair.

The defendants, represented by Mr Alvin Tan, do not deny the transfers of cash and assets.

They contend that the transfers were justified. Living the Link was merely holding the inventory on consignment; Link Boutique and Alldressedup had paid for the inventory, so they were entitled to have it back.

As for the cash payments made, the defendants said that Link Boutique and Alldressedup had paid various expenses and made cash advances to Living the Link and so were entitled to be reimbursed.

Mrs Tan-Leo denies breaching her duties to Living the Link; she contends that she had acted honestly and reasonably. The trial, to be heard over 11 days, continues.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Owner of Link group sued over 'breach of duties''. Print Edition | Subscribe