A High Court judgment has revealed bitter financial feuding within one of Christchurch’s wealthiest families, estimated to be worth $ 300 million.
The interim judgment allows Avenal McKinnon, the sister of colourful developer Antony Gough, to be paid her one-quarter share of the assets in the O T Gough Family Trust which part owns Gough Holdings Ltd, previously known as Gough, Gough and Hamer.
Antony Gough, one of the city’s most high-profile property investors, has plans for a $ 100m plus complex of offices, shops, restaurants and bars in City Mall with construction starting next year.
Gough Holdings is one of the region’s largest companies supplying heavy equipment for the mining, forestry, transport and power industries in New Zealand and Australia.
It is known for being the distributor of Caterpillar equipment in New Zealand.
Weekly business newspaper NBR estimates the family’s wealth at $ 300m.
Avenal’s bid for her cut has been fought by brother Harcourt, with the support of brothers Tracy and Antony, though the latter two had no formal part in the court case, the court judgment says.
They are the four children of Owen Tracy Gough and the beneficiaries of the O T Gough Family Trust.
The other branch of the family are Ben Gough and Gina Satterthwaite, who are the beneficiaries of the B T Gough Trust, and are the children of Blair Gough, the half-brother of Owen Tracy Gough.
Ben Gough is openly seeking control of Gough Holdings.
Harcourt argued in court that allowing Avenal her share would weaken the O T Gough trust.
He said “the broader conflicts facing the O T Gough family” were more likely to be resolved if the members stuck together.
“His evidence is that the essence of the broader family conflict is that Ben, a member of the B T Gough side of the family, is actively seeking to control GHL [Gough Holdings],” the judgment said.
If Ben were to take control, Harcourt believed it would result in a significant loss to the O T Gough beneficiaries “as Ben’s intention is to minimise the dividend return while he is in control”.
“The broader thrust of Harcourt’s argument is that conflict between the O T Gough family and the B T Gough family is inevitable, and that it is in the interests of the O T Gough family to stick together in that conflict.”
However the court said: “It is not appropriate for the court to become embroiled in a long-standing and bitter family dispute by making any findings about the merits of that dispute.
“I am of the clear view that the inter-family conflict is not a matter which may properly be held to constitute a special circumstance to deprive Avenal of her right to have her share of the trust property transferred to her,” the judge said.
He decided the judgment was an interim one.
Any issues that arose from implementing his decision and any orders that were needed could be addressed by a final court judgment if required. But this is not the end of the dispute.
The court decided to leave the question of Harcourt’s status as a beneficiary to a later hearing.
In her statement of claim, Avenal argued that Harcourt’s share had passed to her, Tracy and Antony because of a previous arrangement.
The court said that dispute would be adjourned so that the parties involved could take further steps in that case or start a separate court action.
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