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An Auckland man is sharpening his claws to do battle with Whangarei's Lionman over an alleged debt totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Auckland builder Rob Reece says he wants the cash - which he says is more than $400,000 - or the cats.
He claims he largely financed television star Craig Busch into his high-profile lion business five or six years ago.
Mr Reece says he has continued to pour thousands into the popular tourist venture but has never received a cent in return.
He plans to take legal action through the High Court in Auckland next month, he says.
If he cannot get his money back from Mr Busch, he wants the lions.
If he gets ownership of the animals, he will get someone else to train them.
Mr Reece told the Advocate last night that he helped when Mr Busch "had nothing".
"He (Busch) was working as a digger operator on one of my sites ... I gave him $80,000 so he could get those white tigers.
"He went to the States and got the animals and from then on I have put in money to build the plant and infrastructure up.
"I have backed him and sacrificed for my family all these years."
Mr Reece says he has "nothing to show" for his investment.
"He has got the animals and as far as he is concerned, they are his and not mine ... it's not right," Mr Reece said.
He claims he has never received any money from the Lionman.
"Not a cent in five or six years and we are up to many hundreds of thousands of dollars ... I am at the point where I have had enough."
Mr Busch declined to comment last night.
"I am not allowed to talk to anyone," he said.
However, TV3 News reported earlier that Mr Busch said Mr Reece was exaggerating the amount, and that it took time to build up a business and make it profitable.
Mr Busch told TV3 he had offered to pay back the money in full - something Mr Reece denied.
Busch's Zion Wildlife Gardens in Whangarei provides a sanctuary to some of the world's rarest big cats including white lions and orange Bengal tigers.