A bitter squabble within the rich list Huljich family that has pitted the family's matriarch against her own son and grandson has been kept secret for now by courtroom manoeuvring.
Elizabeth Huljich, 86, filed a claim in the High Court at Auckland in later 2014 alleging her son and grandson were liable for a $264,000 mortgage registered across her home. The matter has slowly wound through the court system, and today was expected to hear requests from Elizabeth's lawyers to add third parties to the claim.
But details of the dispute will remain secret after Daniel McLellan, QC, acting for Christopher and Peter Huljich, successfully requested the hearing be held in chambers. The procedural move, opposed by Elizabeth's lawyer Olinda Woodroffe, meant media and nearly a dozen elderly supporters of the plaintiff were ordered to vacate the courtroom.
Christopher Huljich told the Herald in 2014 he opposed the action. "The claim is misconceived. It is, however, a private family matter and I do not intend to make any further comment."
Elizabeth said the dispute related to $700,000 mortgage taken over properties she owned. She said the proceeds were advanced to her son who agreed to meet repayments, but in early 2014 he denied liability for the remaining $264,0000 owed.
"The last thing I want is for this to go public. But I feel I have no choice. They don't think I will stand up to them. I may be old but I know what's fair. They are not my family anymore," she said.
The Huljich family, originally, from Croatia, developed their wealth in the 1970s as the three sons of Elizabeth - Paul, Christopher and Michael - built up the Best Corporation best-known for Top Hat bacon.
The trio sold out of the small goods business in 1988 and diversified into property, technology and financial investments. The National Business Review this year assessed the family's wealth at $225m.
The family business is today fronted by Christopher's son Peter, who hit headlines in 2011 when he pleaded guilty to charges brought by the Financial Markets Authority that he misled investors in the Huljich Wealth Management KiwiSaver scheme.
The mortgage stoush is the latest manifestation of a long-running family dispute that has seen the family split. Elizabeth and Paul have broadly lined up against Michael, Christopher and Peter in a tussle for control of finances.