Businessman avoiding debt to MP, court told

NICK KRAUSE
Last updated 14:00 19/11/2012
wagner
ACTION TAKEN: National MP Nicky Wagner has told the High Court a businessman asset stripped to avoid paying her.

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National Party MP Nicky Wagner has accused a wealthy Auckland businessman of asset-stripping his companies to avoid repaying her more than $300,000, the High Court at Auckland heard today.

Wagner, the MP for Christchurch Central, is seeking judgment for $340,600 plus interest and costs from Mt Eden businessman Robert Gill, who she claimed in court had failed to pay the balance owed for the 75 per cent of shares he bought in her two companies.

Wagner described her website companies fashionnz and gardennz as her babies built up over 10 years.

Gill's company Digital Partners (DPL) entered a contract to buy three quarters of her businesses in April 2008 for $700,000 on a deferred basis. But after all but $280,000 had been paid, disputes arose which eventually went to arbitration.

In February 2011, arbitrator Barry Paterson QC found in favour of Wagner and awarded her $319,606. But Gill and his associated companies refused to pay, Wagner said.

Instead, the day after arbitration, Gill put the companies Digital Partners and BA Partners into receivership, blocking the path to any civil suits to recover what was owing to her, she said.

"(It's) quite unbecoming of someone with $11 million net worth to be shuffling assets around," she said.

"Mr Gill owes (me) and it ought to be paid ... all I want is to be paid for the debt owed," Wagner told the court.

Wagner, who considered herself an internet pioneer, said at the time Gill put DPL into receivership, a suite of that company's websites were projected to make a profit of $452,700 for the 2010 year. Most of that profit came from her websites, she said. In the period since the acquisition, her websites had produced more than $1.3m in revenue for DPL.

Another of Gill's companies, BA Partners, was profitable with revenue from NZ Netball of about $334,000 a year in 2010.

"I'm pursuing (this) because Mr Gill and his interests owe me money ... he moved the best assets out," Wagner said.

Gill had since sold the websites, she claimed, for $450,000, more than he'd paid her thus far, she said. All she wanted was cash for her share of the business. "That's not the way we do business. That's not what we do in New Zealand," Wagner said.

The defence, in its cross examination, said the Gill companies had no funds to make any payments and that any payments were always subject to the performance of the companies.

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The case is due to run for seven days.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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