The head of a multimillion pound business empire is suing her son’s ex-girlfriend over claims she refused to pay back almost £200,000 after being called a “bloody cow” during a row.
Hannelore Matt, 87, who co-founded one of Germany’s biggest eyewear chains, is attempting to reclaim money she handed to 61-year-old Liana Fox during her relationship with the tycoon’s son Andreas.
A court in London has heard Andreas and Ms Fox dated as teenagers and rekindled their romance after she was widowed in 2009, but they split again in 2020 amid allegations that Ms Fox was cheating on him.
Mrs Matt is now suing for the return of £193,000 (225,000 euros) which she says was advanced to help Ms Fox buy a house for her and Andreas in the Kent countryside.
She claims Ms Fox refused to pay it back, texting Andreas the excuse: “I can’t send the money to you...Bloody cows don’t answer text messages to the people who call them bloody cows. No one in my whole life has ever called me that.”
However Ms Fox, from Ashford in Kent, insists the money was not for a house purchase but instead used to settle Andreas’ debts, over “extravagant” purchases including a Mercedes car, a camper van and a three wheeled flying trike.
Mrs Matt founded the family business Optik Matt with husband Bernard in 1955, growing it to become one of Germany’s top five eyewear chains with a multimillion pound turnover.
The court heard Ms Fox and Andreas had a teenage romance in the 1970s but parted ways, with Ms Fox marrying in England and running a sculpture gallery in Canterbury while Andreas worked for the family business in Regensburg, Germany.
They rekindled their romance and got engaged in Malta in 2014, and Ms Fox says she supported Andreas through a 2018 conviction and jail sentence for embezzlement involving a 596,000 euro investment.
Jeff Hardman, a barrister for Mrs Matt, said Andreas wanted to move to England after his jail sentence and his mother advanced money for a home in Kent. The house was never bought, and then the couple split amid claims Ms Fox was having an affair.
“Mrs Matt seeks to recover the sum of 225,000 euros from Ms Fox”, said Mr Hardman. “She says that the monies were advanced in September 2019 to Ms Fox for a specific purpose, being the acquisition of residential property. Ms Fox failed to acquire any property...and has refused to return the monies.
“Ms Fox admits that the monies were received, but contends that there was no joint venture or loan agreement. Rather, Mrs Matt transferred the sum of 225,000 euros on behalf of her son, who was allegedly indebted to Ms Fox.”
He said the former couple had an argument in May 2020 when Andreas was “upset that Ms Fox hadn’t visited him in Germany for some time, had failed to find a property, and made disrespectful comments about his mother.
“This was followed by a series of text message exchanges on 27 May 2020, with Andreas Matt demanding back the money on his mother’s behalf,” the barrister said.
He said Ms Fox refused to repay the money and sent the text message referring to the “bloody cows” comment.
It is said Ms Fox signed a document admitting she owed Mrs Matt money and agreeing to pay it back £100,000 towards the debt, and Mr Hardman accused her of trying to “cobble together any old plausible argument” to try to avoid payment.
Christopher Snell, representing Ms Fox, insisted she was a “lady of means” with no reason to borrow money from Mrs Matt, and argued the document promising repayment was signed under “duress”.“She had inherited significant wealth following her husband’s sad demise from cancer”, he said. “She had no need to borrow money from Mrs Matt – or any other person – in order to purchase a property in the United Kingdom.
“The extent of her means is clear from the amount of money that she expended during the course of her relationship with Andreas, which included ...her paying his legal bills during his criminal trial, paying bail money on his behalf, and loaning him sizeable sums of money in order to make extravagant purchases.”
He added: “Mrs Matt sent the money to Ms Fox - very shortly after Andreas had been incarcerated for embezzling a very significant amount of money from a former lady friend - in order to settle part of Andreas’ sizeable debt to another of his former lady friends: Ms Fox”.
The hearing at Central London county court continues.