Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Huka Lodge owner in legal fight

Ex-business partner prepares to resume multimillion-dollar case against New Zealand luxury resort owner.

Huka Lodge.
Huka Lodge.

High-flying businessman Alex van Heeren is set to face a fresh legal challenge from his former business partner which could see him forced to give up half his assets which include luxury resort Huka Lodge.

The long running legal spat between the well-connected Mr van Heeren and his former business partner, South Africa-based Michael Kidd, was heading back to court, Mr Kidd's lawyer confirmed yesterday.

NZ First Leader Winston Peters last week said the lodge was being sold to Chinese interests, a claim that has been dismissed by Mr van Heeren's New Zealand business associates. However the lodge is among Mr van Heeren's assets which are subject to a claim first brought in the High Court by Mr Kidd in 1996.

Mr van Heeren bought Huka Lodge in 1984 with what Mr Kidd said were funds from their business partnership. When the partnership ended, Mr Kidd signed an agreement which saw him receive just US$3 million of assets valued conservatively at US$38.5 million including over 30kg of gold, Huka Lodge and Fiji's Dolphin Island resort.

Mr Kidd also signed another document which both indemnified Mr van Heeren against any future claims by Mr Kidd but also stated any subsequent disputes had to be settled in South African courts.

In a 1997 ruling, Justice Robert Smellie said those documents were an absolute defence against Mr Kidd's claims in New Zealand. Mr Kidd challenged the validity of the documents in the South African High Court last year and won.

Mr Kidd's Auckland-based lawyer Brent O'Callahan yesterday confirmed he would be "filing documents to progress proceedings imminently" in the High Court in New Zealand. He refused to comment further.

Mr van Heeren who is currently travelling in Africa did not respond to requests for comment but his lawyer Chris Hodson, QC, told the Herald Huka Lodge was not at stake in the litigation as Mr Kidd was primarily seeking an "accounting" of assets owned by the partnership when it broke up.

Partnership wrangle

1980 Alex van Heeren and Michael Kidd move their steel trading business from SA to NZ.
1984 Mr van Heeren buys Huka Lodge.
1991 Partnership breaks up.
1996 Mr Kidd sues Mr van Heeren for half of his NZ assets.
1997 Justice Robert Smellie rules SA courts must decide whether documents signed by Mr Kidd mean he has no case.
2013 High Court in SA rules those documents are void.

nzherald.co.nz

To read more on Winston Peters' Huka Lodge claims, go to: tinyurl.com/hukalodge

- NZ Herald

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