Legal battlelines drawn for Nina Wang's billions

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HONG KONG, Nov 19 (Reuters) One of Asia's biggest fortunes, left by Nina Wang -- once the continent's richest woman -- will probably be handled by an administrator while her feng shui master friend and her family battle in court for the 12 billion dollar.

The rival camps told a court today they agreed in principle to an independent administrator, according to a lawyer for feng shui enthusiast and businessman Tony Chan, clearing the way for what is expected to be a heated and lengthy court case.

''It's an important and major step,'' Jonathan Midgley, Chan's lawyer, told Reuters.

Midgley said an estate administrator was needed to ensure Wang's assets were ''preserved'' and ''run efficiently'' during the court case.

Chan claims to be the sole beneficiary of a will drafted last year by Wang as she was dying with cancer. But the Chinachem Charitable Foundation, run primarily by Wang's family, lays claim to an earlier 2002 will.

Wang, rated Asia's richest woman, was one of Hong Kong's most colourful tycoons nicknamed ''little sweetie'' for her braided pigtails, mini-skirts and giggly persona.

Midgley said there seemed to be agreement between the parties, including Wang's nonagenarian father-in-law Wang Din-shin, on having a court-appointed administrator to oversee the estate. But he said Wang's family needed more time to consider certain details.

''They're obliged to enter their next legal document in relation to the litigation on the 13th of December to stake this claim,'' Midgley said.

Judge Andrew Cheung adjourned the hearing until December 10, when all parties will give an update on their positions.

Wang, ranked the 154th richest person in the world by Forbes magazine last year, was known for her eccentricities, including her self-professed stinginess.

Her life was touched by tragedy in 1990 when her husband Teddy Wang was abducted and never seen alive again.

Later she stirred controversy by waging a legal war against her father-in-law, Wang Din-shin, to secure her husband's billions even though he hadn't yet been confirmed dead.

Wang won the eight-year legal battle in 2005, securing full control of the estate and of Hong Kong's largest private property developer, Chinachem group, in a probate saga that captivated the city of 7 million with tales of illicit affairs.

REUTERS SKB SSC1347

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