Last month, a clothing boutique in Aberdeen Square became the focal point of a couple’s divorce proceedings. The boutique, Ursids, specializes in luxury clothing and accessories predominantly sourced from Europe.
It was operated by Jiabei Zhang and Yilei Xiong, who met while attending Simon Fraser University in 2011 and subsequently tied the knot in Richmond five years later. Before their marriage, the couple had established a company to open a boutique store in Aberdeen Square.
Dispute Over the Store’s Inventory and Funds
The couple’s divorce proceedings at the BC Supreme Court revolved around their disagreement over dividing the store’s inventory and business account funds.
Justice Simon Coval ultimately divided the remaining assets equally between the parties, despite accusations from both sides that the list had been taken from the store following their separation.
The judgment stated, “Ms. Xiong was passionate about the fashion industry, and Mr. Zhang liked the idea of managing a retail business with her.”
Separation, Closure of Ursids, and the Emergence of a Level Luxe Fashion Corporation
The couple separated in early 2019, and subsequently, Ursids went out of business later that year. A Level Luxe Fashion Corporation, founded by Zhang’s acquaintance a few months after Ursids’s demise, now occupies the space in Aberdeen Square.
Zhang had transferred the Ursids’ WeChat account and the store’s list of European vendors to his friend. The WeChat account boasted approximately 5,000 followers and generated a monthly gross sales revenue of around $20,000 in June 2019.
Claims and Allegations Made by Both Parties
Both Xiong and Zhang currently reside in China with their child, and they each sought to secure a good portion of the remaining assets by asserting their individual contributions and making allegations of asset misappropriation after their separation.
The judge noted, “At trial, each party accused the other of ruining the business and misappropriating its valuable inventory.” Zhang had withdrawn roughly $274,000 from the company bank account earlier that year to purchase luxury European inventory for the shop.
In addition, Zhang claimed that Xiong stole the inventory and sold it at her sister’s Aberdeen Square boutique, Young OG, while he was away in China. He further alleged that Xiong ceased providing shifts to Ursids employees and closed the store.
Contradictory Statements and Ownership Structure
Xiong refuted Zhang’s allegations and informed the court that she had only removed “out-of-season remainders” from the inventory and placed them in storage.
She also accused Zhang of transferring the shop’s WeChat account to his friend and taking inventory, possibly to sell at Ursids Toronto. In terms of ownership, Zhang owned 51% of the company, while Xiong held a 49% stake.
Zhang also established Ursids Toronto Inc. 2018 with two other individuals to open a second boutique in Toronto. Notably, Xiong was not a shareholder in Ursids Toronto.
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Judge’s Findings and Division of Assets
Judge Coval expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of substantial evidence regarding the contents or value of the missing inventory. However, it appeared that the quantity exceeded what could have been acquired with the $274,000 that Zhang had used for inventory purchases.
The judge believed both parties had taken much of the missing inventory but found the evidence too vague and ambiguous to ascertain specific details.
Consequently, Coval determined that the disappeared inventory issue would not be the basis for dividing the family property. In the judge’s decision, the inventory, the sum Xiong had withdrawn from the shop’s bank account.