Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Court battle to retain $400 million empire

Businessman and philanthropist Hugh Green (left), next to his son John Green in 2011. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Businessman and philanthropist Hugh Green (left), next to his son John Green in 2011. Photo / Steven McNicholl

The battle for control of the late Hugh Green's $400m empire is set to resume today, when a four-day hearing begins in the Court of Appeal.

Green, who died aged 80 in 2012, built up his businesess over decades after migrating from Ireland in the 1950s.

It included the Hugh Green Group, a family-owned property company, and the Hugh Green Foundation, a charitable organisation that supports causes such as medical research or individuals living with disabilities or serious illness.

The philanthropist's eldest daughter, Maryanne, had been chief executive of the Green Group but she left the business in the 12 months before her father died.

Hugh Green's final will dated April 2012 - signed months before he passed away - added two of his five children, John and Frances Green, and lawyer Michael Fisher as executors. This small change had a big impact as the executors can appoint people to the trusts that control the entire Green Group.

Maryanne, in June last year, won a major courtroom victory.

In that case, the then-Chief High Court Judge Helen Winkelmann found Hugh Green had been subject to undue influence from his son John when he made a series of decisions in the last year of his life.

They included removing Maryanne as a trustee and director and signing his final will in April 2012, a few months before he died.

The judge ruled that will to be invalid and reappointed Maryanne to several Green Group companies.

Justice Winkelmann also declared Maryanne was a trustee of the Hugh Green Trust and Hugh Green Property Trust, which control the business side of the Green Group.

The judge also said John and Frances were not validly appointed and not directors of the Green Group firms. She also removed the pair from the two trusts in question.

John and Frances appealed the decision, which is due to be argued before Justices Ellen France, Christine French and Stephen Kos.

Read the full court judgement here:

- NZ Herald

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