Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Ex-wife fails in appeal bid

Judges rule husband's $8 million restraint-of-trade payment should not be split.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The ex-wife of a businessman who made a fortune in health and sport supplements has lost a Court of Appeal fight attempting to get a share of $8 million from her ex-husband.

After Michael and Christine Thompson divorced in 2005 they agreed on how to split up their family home, a holiday home and $72 million from the sale of Nutra-Life Health and Fitness, a business which they established in 1984.

But the former husband and wife - who married in 1971 - were unable to agree on how to deal with an $8 million restraint-of-trade payment made to Michael Thompson in 2006 by the company that bought Nutra-Life.

Christine Thompson made a claim in the Family Court that this payment was relationship property and should be divided equally.

This, however, was deemed to be her former husband's separate property and Christine Thompson then appealed this decision to the High Court.

While Justice Pamela Andrews in the High Court agreed that the payment was Michael Thompson's separate property, she exercised her discretion to treat part of it as relationship property.

However, Justice Andrews said there was not enough information to work out what part of the $8 million payment could be treated as such and said further evidence could be submitted to establish this.

Michael Thompson appealed this decision, claiming Justice Andrews wrongly allowed further evidence to be admitted in the case.

At the same time, Christine Thompson appealed the High Court's judgment treating the $8 million as her former husband's separate property.

In a decision released this week, Court of Appeal Justices Anthony Randerson, Lynton Stevens and Forrest Miller allowed Michael Thompson's appeal and dismissed Christine Thompson's cross-appeal.

"We see no principled basis upon which it would be just to treat any part of the $8 million separate property as relationship property," the judges' decision said.

This means that the Family Court judgment is reinstated.

Both sides were represented by Queen's Counsel, with Lady Deborah Chambers acting for Michael Thompson and Anne Hinton acting for Christine Thompson.

Hinton told the Herald yesterday evening that her client was still considering whether to apply for leave to take the case to the Supreme Court.

- NZ Herald

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