Receivers of the Villa Maria wine business say they will "vigorously defend" their actions against legal claims being brought by founder Sir George Fistonich.
Brendon Gibson and Neale Jackson of Calibre Partners said in their latest update out yesterday that one of the matters they were dealing with were "two legal claims by Fistonich who is a shareholder of FFWL, the company in receivership".
The first was seeking information from them about equity and land sales.
The second was a "claim for damages over alleged conduct of the receivership and land sales process which was undertaken before receivership and concluded by the receivers," Gibson and Jackson wrote in the six-monthly receivers' report out this week.
"The receivers have been very considered and careful about the processes followed in the receivership and have acted in the best interests of parties in accordance with their obligations," they wrote.
They told of financial stress at FFWL and Villa Maria Estate which was revealed to owe $212 million to bankers.
"In the lead-up to our appointment, the company and Villa Maria Estate came under pressure due to issues with the group's capital structure. The group had been running processes to raise equity and sell some land in Māngere that is surplus to its core operating requirements," their report said.
Last September, they completed the sale of Villa Maria's equity to Indevin New Zealand. The value attributed to Villa Maria's business was $190m, they revealed for the first time.
But they said further details were commercially sensitive.
The Māngere land was sold in two deals, the first to Indevin and then to Goodman Property Trust, the report said.
The site of the Villa Maria estate was transferred to FFWL in a deal that saw FFWL assume $83.5m of Villa Maria Estate's bank debt.
The Herald has separately reported that John Dakin of Goodman has told of plans to spend around $500m developing the land into a logistics or warehouse estate.
The trust envisages a long-term business park on what is now vineyards where concerts and events are held.
"Hopefully we can do something that would make Sir George, the community, us and our customers proud and that we've done the right thing," Dakin said last year.
Goodman is paying $75m for the site which has caused some surprise, thought to be low, as well as disappointment at the loss of the concert venue.
But some in the sector say the land was worth more like $130m and the receivers had sold it for far too little.
In their latest report, the Calibre receivers listed total receipts of $15m including a $13.6m sale of business but payments of $10.6m including $7m escrow payment required under VME equity sale.
They said it was too early to say when the receivership would be over.
In December, the Herald reported that Fistonich had launched a second legal claim over the sale of the Villa Maria winery.
He filed a multi-million dollar claim for damages in the High Court against the receivers which the bank appointed, hiring Jim Farmer, QC, and law firm MC.
He planted the first grapes at Māngere on land he rented from his father and built up the winery to be one of the most awarded vineyards in the world. He was knighted in 2009 for services to the industry and stepped down as Villa Maria chief executive in early 2018.