Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Ivan Erceg heading to Supreme Court over family trusts

Ivan Erceg, at his company, Sensation Yachts, in Henderson, in 2008. Photo / Doug Sherring
Ivan Erceg, at his company, Sensation Yachts, in Henderson, in 2008. Photo / Doug Sherring

Former superyacht builder Ivan Erceg is heading to the Supreme Court in his bid to discover who got what from two trusts set up by his older brother, the late liquor magnate Michael Erceg.

The country's highest judicial body granted Ivan leave to appeal to it this afternoon.

Ivan received no payout when the two trusts in question 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 went 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.

Justice Courtney said there was a distinct unease about the ramifications for family relations of Ivan having access to trust documents and the potential impact on the trustees.

She referred to an email sent by Ivan in May 2009 threatening to discuss family matters with the media.

Ivan said in the email that "when my story has been told, the need to continue life's journey will no longer be required. The blood and death that will

follow will stain both Darryl and Lyn. The costs will be greater than can be imagined at this time."

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 in a February ruling disagreed with Justice Courtney and believed the former boss of the now-sunk Sensation Yachts did have standing to bring the case.

But 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 matter will now be decided by five Supreme Court judges.

The approved question for the appeal is:

"Should the conclusion that disclosure not be made/required be set-aside?".

- NZ Herald

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