Developer and wife in million dollar court battle

A courtroom clash between Auckland property developer Tim Manning and his ex-wife may have netted her more than half a million dollars from a disputed property sale.

Joanne Manning will be paid out $357,000 plus interest in proceeds from the sale of her home in the Auckland suburb of Browns Bay, with a further sum of more than $200,000 still to be determined.

In a summary judgment at the Auckland High Court yesterday, Justice Tony Christiansen said there was "no reason that prevents granting judgement to the plaintiff".

The Mannings were wed in 1988 but have since divorced, with Tim Manning marrying second wife Siane in 2005.

Tim Manning has been the director of scores of property companies, including the leaky-home plagued Taradale Properties, and was one of the first to develop large-scale gated communities in New Zealand.

Manning also used to own the private Eori Island in Fiji, later selling it to billionaire packaging tycoon Graeme Hart.

The $1.27 million house at the centre of this week's court action was bought in 2003 for Joanne Manning and the couple's two children.

It was owned by a trust with the Mannings registered as joint trustees, and was sold in June this year.

To finance the original purchase, Joanne Manning secured a $350,000 loan, while Tim Manning agreed to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage.

The additional $200,000, which is yet to be ruled upon, stems from ambiguously-worded variation agreements made by the Mannings.

Initially, Tim Manning was to pay out $200,000 by October 2008, but the payment was deferred for three years until the house was sold.

A clause added to the agreement extinguished Manning's obligation to pay by October 2008, which was interpreted differently by each side.

The defendant's lawyer, William McCartney, said that Tim Manning could not pay the $200,000. The obligation to pay had been replaced by an agreement that the proceeds of the property sale would go to Joanne Manning.

However, the plaintiff's lawyer Michael Black said the clause changed the date, not the underlying agreement itself, which was "a clear obligation, not negated".

The plaintiff also wanted backdated interest to be paid on the $200,000, at a rate of 15 per cent.

Whilst delivering his judgement, Justice Christiansen said it would be beneficial for the court to hear both sides of the story directly from the Mannings, which would reduce confusion and provide background information.

He said the question of the $200,000 payment would be determined at a later date early next year, and it would likely fall under the jurisdiction of the Family Court.

BusinessDay.co.nz