The German millionaire matriarch who runs a massive specs empire is suing her son’s British ex-fiancée over nearly £200,000 of money loaned to them which she claims she is refusing to pay after a bust-up.
Hannelore Matt, the co-founder of Optik Matt – which sells glasses, contact lenses, frames, sunglasses and hearing aids – is suing her son Andreas’ former partner Liana Fox over money she gave her during their relationship.
Andreas and Ms Fox had rekindled a teenage romance after the 87-year-old matriarch was widowed in 2009, but split up again in 2020 after a series of troubles, a court heard.
Ms Fox, 61, is now being sued for the return of £193,000 which Mrs Matt says was advanced to help Ms Fox buy a house for her and Andreas to use in England but which was never bought. She says Ms Fox refused to pay it back, texting Andreas she was angry at being branded ‘a bloody cow’ during an argument.
Ms Fox texted: ‘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.’
Hannelore Matt, 87, co-founder of one of Germany’s biggest eyewear chains, is suing her son Andreas’ British former partner Liana Fox over money she handed her during their relationship (Pictured: Mrs Matt and Andreas outside court)
The court heard Ms Fox (right) and Andreas (left) started a relationship as teenagers in the 1970s, but parted, with Ms Fox marrying in England and Andreas working for the family business in Regensburg, Germany
Suing at Central London County Court, Mrs Matt wants return of the money she advanced, as well as hefty legal costs, claiming the money was either loaned to Ms Fox or held on trust by her to buy a house as an investment for the two women.
But Ms Fox argues that the money is hers, as it was to cover debts owed to her by Andreas for ‘extravagant’ boy toys, including a Mercedes car, a camper van and a three wheeled flying trike that she loaned him money for while they were together.
Judge Mark Raeside KC heard Mrs Matt built family business Optik Matt from humble beginnings, after founding it with her husband Bernard Matt in 1955. It is now one of Germany’s top five eyewear chains, with 82 shops, 450 employees and a multimillion-pound turnover and is still run as a family business by three of Mrs Matt’s children.
The court heard Ms Fox and Andreas started a relationship as teenagers in the 1970s, but parted, with Ms Fox marrying in England and Andreas working for the family business in Regensburg, Germany.
Ms Fox – who formerly ran a sculpture gallery in Canterbury – had a son with her husband Nigel, but was widowed in 2009, before resuming her relationship with Andreas the following year.
They had an official engagement in Malta, with a 15,000 euro ring bought for Ms Fox in 2014.
But Andreas found himself in trouble with the police and in 2018 was convicted and later jailed for embezzlement involving ‘596,000 euros provided to him by a third party investor,’ said his mother’s barrister Jeff Hardman.
Ashamed at his fall from grace, Andreas wanted to move to England and his mother advanced 225,000 euros to Ms Fox towards jointly purchasing a property in the Kent countryside, he continued.
Ms Fox, 61, of Ashford, Kent, is now being sued for the return of 225,000 euros (£193,000), Mrs Matt says was advanced to help Ms Fox buy a house for her and Andreas to use in England, but which was never bought
Suing at Central London County Court, Mrs Matt (centre, with her son Andreas) wants return of the money she advanced, as well as hefty legal costs, claiming the money was either loaned to Ms Fox or held on trust by her
However, the purchase never took place and, after Andreas discovered Ms Fox’s affair, they split in 2020, with his mother then demanding the money be repaid, said the barrister.
Mr Hardman told the judge: ‘Mrs Matt seeks to recover the sum of 225,000 euros from Ms Fox. 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.
‘In or around May 2020, Andreas Matt and Ms Fox had an argument. Mr Matt 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 May 27, 2020, with Andreas Matt demanding back the money on his mother’s behalf,’ the barrister said.
He told the judge Ms Fox had said she could not send the money and, when asked why, she responded: ‘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.’
He told the judge that Ms Fox had later signed a document, admitting she owed Mrs Matt money and agreeing to pay it back £100,000 towards the debt.
‘The weight of documentary evidence overwhelmingly favours the claimant’s narrative,’ he argued.
‘Ms Fox’s contention that Mrs Matt’s son owed her money is nothing more than a last ditch effort to cobble together any old plausible argument to resist liability.
‘She has acknowledged the debt, before stumbling upon…different excuses….to avoid making payment.
‘Mrs Matt made 12 separate demands for payment before Ms Fox abandoned the previous excuses and alighted upon the indebted son argument.
‘She has adopted and discarded arguments to suit her narrative, and has gone to extraordinary lengths to portray Mrs Matt’s son as some sort of impecunious grifter.
‘There is no evidence anywhere as between Mrs Matt, her son, or Ms Fox that there was even a debt, let alone an unspoken agreement that Mrs Matt would pay off the alleged debt.’
But for Ms Fox, Christopher Snell painted a different picture, claiming that Ms Fox had signed the document promising to pay back money under ‘duress.’
He said Andreas’ conviction arose from his relationship with a ‘lady of means’ and his then ’embezzling her money,’ suggesting he had ‘exhibited a similar pattern of behaviour in relation to Ms Fox.’
‘Ms Fox was – throughout the time of her relationship with Andreas – a lady of means,’ he said.
‘She had inherited significant wealth following her husband’s sad demise from cancer. 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.
‘This is, of course, the claimant’s case to prove. To succeed, she must establish that she made the transfer to Ms Fox in order for her to purchase a house which Mrs Matt was to co-own. That is her pleaded case.
‘Ms Fox’s case is, on the contrary, simple, straightforward and credible.
‘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 continues.