Lyon's share worth millions

MARK LYON: The heir may still be able to access his fortune.
MARK LYON: The heir may still be able to access his fortune.

Mark Lyon, an heir to the wealthy Goodman Fielder Wattie empire, went from big-noting playboy to a drug-taking petty criminal in a post-millennium meltdown, but a High Court decision could see him returned to riches.

Lyon won a ruling on May 29 potentially worth millions of dollars after a judge ruled his former business partner had cut him out of a lucrative Auckland property deal. Lyon sued his former partner Geoffrey Ridley, whom he met when they both worked at Chase Corporation in the 1980s, over a development on Quay St.

The project began in 1996 when the pair paid $5.475 million to the Ngati Whatua o Orakei Maori Trust Board for a 150-year lease on the 11,555 square metre section near the port.

The property has since been subdivided into a strip mall with second-storey residences. Mobil, KFC and McDonald's stores have been built on the site and are sub-leased to the franchise operators.

Lyon claimed the project had always been a 50:50 joint venture, with him providing the capital and Ridley management and development expertise. He claimed the agreement entitled him to a half-share of ownership of the properties, and 50 per cent of profits from rental income.

Lyon submitted to the court the project was described by the pair as "our superannuation fund", a description Ridley denied.

Ridley, in turn, had argued the joint-venture agreement had been terminated in 1997 when Lyon undertook complex restructuring.

Ridley's counsel argued the restructuring had replaced Lyon's ownership of the project with a loan and these moves had been motivated by a desire to reduce tax.

Lyon told the court: "I could not be seen to have direct involvement, whether by shareholding or directorship . . . because I would taint the transaction as a property developer which would have adverse tax consequences."

Justice John Fogarty said the admissibility of this evidence for determining the nature of the restructuring was "dubious" and he had not relied on it.

The court heard Lyon had taken a step back from the day-to-day running of the project, leaving Ridley in charge.

Ridley's ascendency in the development coincided with Lyon's remarkable withdrawal from public life and a descent into the underworld.

Lyon, 58, was a notorious figure in the first decade of the 2000s. An heir to the wealthy Goodman Fielder Wattie empire, he was known for a time for throwing lavish parties including one featuring a mock helicopter assault by people dressed as the SAS.

In 2001 he reportedly drove his military-style Hummer, worth about $100,000, around the Millbrook resort golf course near Queenstown, tearing up the greens before sinking the vehicle in a pond. Lyon later fell in with gang members and has made numerous court appearances since 2002.

He has been convicted of drug and firearms offences.

Regarding the current case, Justice Fogarty ruled while there was no dishonesty proved against Ridley there had been a breach of trust and Lyon was entitled to half ownership of the properties and back-payments for a share of rents earned.

Justice Fogarty also flagged the possibility of Lyon claiming for a share of profits from projects undertaken by Ridley that used the properties as security.

Ridley, when contacted by the Sunday Star-Times, said: "No I'm not allowed to comment on that."

Ridley's lawyer, Paul Dale, said Justice Fogarty's decision was being appealed.

Sunday Star Times