Tom Hawken, a former maths teacher met wife Xiu Li on a blind date. The couple married and lived in a modest semi-detached in South Norwood near Croyden.
However, in 2011 a business venture in China that Mrs Hawken was involved in suddenly took off, making her a billionaire almost overnight.
Mrs Hawken’s fortune was made through a company that converted air raid shelters into high-end shopping malls. She is estimated to be worth £1.1 billion and has featured in the Sunday Times Rich List.
The couple’s lifestyle was transformed. They moved into a £1.5 million property in Surrey and took expensive holidays.
Mr Hawken told the Times about a trip the couple took to China where no expense was spared.
“We took my son and my sister-in-law. On the yacht, my wife selected some wine to drink. It was £900 a bottle. I’m quite happy drinking wine that’s £10 a bottle.”
Mr Hawken was awarded less than £1 million in the divorce settlement, a sum that he feels will fund the frugal lifestyle he desires:
“I have got a settlement which is not great, but it’s enough for me because I don’t have an extravagant lifestyle. I won’t have to work if I’m careful.”
He had been uneasy as a wealthy person, he explained.
“I think it made me uncomfortable because I’m not in the habit, I don’t like spending lots of money — I’ve been brought up that way. Until recently I was never a wealthy person. I’ve been moderately comfortable because I have been careful with my money.”
Mr Hawken explained that the couple had spent most of their married life living in different countries and that they had been used to being apart and living independent lives.