Sally Ridge claim 'doomed to fail'

Last updated 07:21 16/04/2014

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Auckland socialite Sally Ridge has been ordered to pay more than $100,000 in costs after her failed court bid to gain half of ex-partner Adam Parore's business.

The dispute over Small Business Accounting (SBA) - the company the former Black Cap has run since 2008 - reached the High Court in Auckland in September. Last month, Justice Murray Gilbert released his ruling, saying: "Ms Ridge's claim fails at the first hurdle."

In a just-released ruling on who should meet the long-running case's costs, Gilbert repeated his view that Ridge's case was "hopeless", "lacked merit" and was "always doomed to fail".

The latest judgment reveals that Parore made a number of settlement offers, all of which Ridge rejected.

In November 2012, Parore offered to pay Ridge $240,000, in 24 monthly instalments of $10,000, in full and final settlement of the plaintiffs' claims. The offer was rejected the following day.

On April 16, 2013, Parore made a further settlement offer which his legal team said represented a cash benefit of $500,000 and which, if accepted, would result in Ridge getting 75 per cent of all the couple's assets at the date of their separation. Ridge did not respond to the offer.

Parore made a further settlement offer in September 2013, which would have given Ridge a cash benefit of about $250,000. This offer was also rejected.

Justice Gilbert said each of Parore's settlement offers was accompanied by detailed explanations of why Ridge's claims were likely to fail and therefore why the offers should be accepted.

"In rejecting (the offers) summarily, the plaintiffs exposed themselves to the risk of an increased costs award in the event that their claims failed," Justice Gilbert said.

"I consider that the plaintiffs acted unreasonably in rejecting these offers for the reasons explained by the defendants' solicitors in their correspondence. The plaintiffs must now accept the consequences of failing to accept these offers without reasonable justification."

He ordered Ridge to pay costs of more than $100,000.

During the case, evidence was given that Ridge and Parore met in 2001 and originally kept their assets separate in two trusts but, after their engagement in 2003, there were a series of agreements combining their financial interests.

Four years later, Ridge and Parore began a multimillion-dollar construction project in Ponsonby, to create a lavish family home.

But the work went over budget, meaning more financial manoeuvring between the trusts.

Family assets were transferred to the Ridge Trust, while business assets fell under the Parore Trust.

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Throughout the High Court hearing, Ridge claimed she did not understand how the arrangement worked.

"You could explain them to me and I used to say this to Adam a million times, 'My brain doesn't compute trusts.' I don't get them, don't understand them, never have and I most probably never will," Ridge said.

"Call me thick, I don't mind, but I do not understand the ins and outs of a trust full stop, I just don't."

However, Gilbert described her as an "intelligent and capable woman", who understood how the pair's finances would be divided.

It was clear SBA was owned by Parore and therefore Ridge was not entitled to it, the judge ruled.

Ridge's and Parore's relationship soured in 2010 and the pair split.

"The parties were not able to reach agreement on how the assets of the two trusts should be dealt with, each claiming that the other had received more than they were entitled to," Gilbert summarised.

In his costs judgment, Gilbert said Ridge's case was based on the "surprising and inherently unlikely contention that the trustees of the Parore Family Trust held shares in SBA, not only for the benefit of the beneficiaries of that trust, but also for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the Sally Ridge Family Trust".

"The submission was that, contrary to the terms of the trust deeds, all assets of both trusts were effectively pooled and held for the benefit of the beneficiaries of both trusts, irrespective of which trust paid for or legally owned the asset," he said.

"One of the difficulties confronting the plaintiffs in their attempt to establish any such intention on the part of the trustees of the two trusts, was their inability to plead this clearly and consistently."

Even during the trial, he said, Ridge remained unclear as to whether the SBA shares were held for her personally or the Ridge Trust.

"This claim lacked merit and was always doomed to fail," the judge said. 

- Fairfax Media

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