Heliventures put in liquidation

Last updated 05:00 03/09/2010

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The ill-fated Saxton family is locked in an internal struggle over its helicopter business, with founder David Saxton obtaining a court order to wind-up the company.

The Haast-based Heliventures was placed into liquidation in the High Court in Christchurch last week, although one family member said it had not operated since chief pilot Morgan Saxton died in a helicopter crash over Lake Wanaka in November, 2008.

Morgan and his father Heliventures founder David Saxton were both found guilty in 2007 of stealing pounamu from the Cascade Plateau, near Haast.

After a failed appeal, David Saxton was sentenced to six-months home detention in October last year. The pair were also ordered to pay $300,000 reparations to Ngai Tahu.

David Saxton could not be reached yesterday but long-time friend and joint-Heliventures shareholder Michael Hill has previously said the application arose from a messy fallout between David and the company's directors, including his daughter.

"Their actions have been disrespectful to Morgan and David," he said.

Heliventures had been trading well but after Morgan Saxton's death the company's assets, including at least one helicopter, were sold by the directors without other shareholders' consent, with cash derived from sales disappearing without explanation, he said. "We wanted a liquidator appointed to find out what had happened to the proceeds from those assets."

Morgan and David Saxton both resigned as directors of Heliventures in 2004 to concentrate on defending the pounamu theft charges.

Company records show Morgan's sister, Lisa Saxton, was appointed director of Heliventures in 2001 with her partner, Ron Zwarst, and her cousin Chris Saxton, appointed in 2006.

Liquidator Colin Gower, of BDO, said the liquidation was "very delicate" and declined to comment further.

Chris Saxton said the liquidation had been eventually consented to by all shareholders but he did not know why David Saxton made the application.

"I have no idea what their supposed grievances were. They certainly never communicated it to myself or Ron or Lisa," he said.

He rejected the suggestion there had been any money inappropriately siphoned out of Heliventures but acknowledged there was an ongoing dispute between David Saxton and his daughter.

Despite liquidation, Heliventures would have enough remaining assets in Heliventures to meet any of its debt, he said.

Records show the only assets left in the company are two mobile trailer tanks.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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