Rich-lister Sir Own Glenn is claiming victory after the High Court in England and Wales ruled his former business partner Eric Watson had engaged in "deliberate deception" when the pair set up a joint venture.

Glenn had seen a large chunk of his fortune tied up in the arrangement, and had spent the past five years fighting in English, Californian and British Virgin Island courts to extricate himself and his £129m ($250m).

The extensive judgement from justice Sir Christopher George Nugee - more than 300 pages following a 12-week trial - covers the sale of Glenn's logistic company, a breakdown with trustees managing the proceeds, and one-friendly relationship between the two rich-listers descending into bitter acrimony.

Watsons modus operandi also comes in for some commentary from Justice Nugee, who said he tended to avoid bank finance and instead borrow from his business partners, and booked management fees from all his deals.


"In practical terms what this means that if Mr Watson can persuade other people to participate in investments on these terms, he can make himself very substantial return".

Watson's extensive use of trusts and nominees also came in for comment from Nugee: "Part of the reason for the complexity of the structures through which Mr Watson does business is no doubt a desire to avoid paying tax; part of it is what was euphemistically called "optical reasons", that is that Mr Watson did not want his interests in a particular mater to be too visible to others."

Watson, who gave evidence during the trial, was described as "courteous, well-prepared and smooth". Glenn is said to have said he could "charm the socks off a kitty".

But Nugee found issue with Watson's testimony, saying it was "impossible to reconcile with the contemporaneous documentation" and he was satisfied he "resorted to deliberate deception" and "I do not regard his evidence as trustworthy and have approached it with very great caution."

A parallel dispute between Glenn and two close business associates - David Miller and Peter Dickson - fed the dispute. Miller and Dickson were trustees and protectors of various Glenn trusts who received the US$350m proceeds from the 2012 sale of Glenn's logistics company - and who made significant investments with Watson.

The two split with Glenn in late 2011, barring the rich-lister from his superyacht Ubiquitous, declining a request to fund a movie about the 1905 Originals All Black tour to Europe. Miller and Dickson also amended trust deeds, removing some Glenn family members as beneficiaries and bumping up fees for themselves.

The ruling records in August 2012 Dickson paid himself US$3.1m in feeds, and Miller collected $2.9m. Justice Nugee said Miller was hesitant and nervous under cross-examination: "On trust matters generally his conduct seems to have been questionable at best."

The ruling said Glenn launched parallel proceeds in US courts against Miller, alleging "Miller engaged in a systematic plan to deprive Sir Own of his ownership in [OTS Logistics] and the proceeds of its sale."


Emails quoted in the ruling show a combative Glenn, claiming he would not let "little people like you stand in my way" and iterating that "let me remind you who made the money".

Justice Nugee said this dispute - effectively between Glenn and his trustees - influence dealings with Watson. "In effect, the consequence of the breakdown in relations with Sir Owen was to throw [Miller] and Mr Dickson more and more into the Watson camp."

The ruling also reveals Glenn surrendered his Green Card in 2003 - entitling him to residence in the United States - and relocated to Monaco over concerns of "possible US tax consequences of a sale".

In an accompanying press release, Glenn said: "I regard this judgment as a complete vindication of my position."

"Eric Watson has behaved appallingly. I saw him as a close friend but he was trying to defraud me. Once I knew what had happened I was determined to get justice."

The long-running dispute may have a while to run yet, with Watson saying through a spokesperson he was "disappointed" with the judgment and was intending to appeal.

"This is by no means over," he said in a statement.

Eric Watson says he will appeal the ruling. Picture / Greg Bowker.
Eric Watson says he will appeal the ruling. Picture / Greg Bowker.