Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Court denies Erceg brother trust documents - for the second time

Ivan Erceg Photo / File
Ivan Erceg Photo / File

Former superyacht builder Ivan Erceg has once again been denied a look at who got what from two trusts set up by his older brother, the late liquor magnate Michael Erceg.

Ivan received no payout when the trusts were wound up in 2010, some 10 months after he was declared bankrupt.

Four years on - out of bankruptcy and armed with a Queen's Counsel - Ivan Valdimir Joseph Erceg marched to the High Court to get his hands on a swathe of trust records.

The documents in his sights included financial statements of Independent Liquor, the ready-to-drink beverage company founded by his brother and worth an estimated $620 million when he died in a helicopter crash a decade ago.

Opposing the bid were two trustees, lawyer Darryl Gregory and Michael's widow Lynette Erceg.

But it was not to be and the High Court's Justice Pamela Courtney said Ivan's main complaint seemed to be that he had not received any distribution from the trust assets.

The "weight of the evidence", she said, was that Michael had intended the trusts would be administered in confidence and he did not want his family members who might benefit from them to have information on this.

While Justice Courtney said she would have exercised her discretion and declined to order the disclosure Ivan sought, she did not need to as she found he did not have the standing to bring the action in the first place.

He took the matter to the Court of Appeal, which disagreed with Justice Courtney and believed the former boss of the now-sunk Sensation Yachts did have standing to bring the case.

But unfortunately for Ivan, the end result was the same.

"[Justice Courtney] fairly considered the factors in favour of and against disclosure before determining no disclosure was appropriate," said the appellate judges, who found their High Court counterpart did not err in her conclusion to refuse his bid.

The Erceg family was estimated to be worth $1.6 billion last year by the National Business Review.

One of the trusts in Ivan's dispute sold its shares in Independent Liquor for a "substantial sum".

Michael Erceg, who was 50 when he died, was piloting his helicopter to Queenstown with a friend when the craft disappeared near Raglan in November 2005.

The wreckage was found about two weeks later in dense bush, and both men are believed to have died on impact.

Independent Liquor was then put up for sale and bought by private equity interests, Lynette, and others. It was sold in 2011 for $1.5 billion to Japan's Asahi Group Holdings.

- NZ Herald

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