Wagner waiting for website cash

NICK KRAUSE
Last updated 07:40 20/11/2012

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A National Party MP who has launched legal proceedings to claw back $340,000 she is owed from a wealthy businessman has refused to hand over about $6000 she has received from subscriptions until the debt has been paid, the High Court at Auckland has heard.

Nicky Wagner, the MP for Christchurch Central, has accused Mt Eden businessman Robert Gill of asset-stripping his companies to avoid repaying her.

She claims Gill refused to pay the balance owed for the 75 per cent of shares he bought in her two website companies, fashionnz and gardennz, which she 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 plus costs of $21,000. But Gill and his associated companies refused to pay, Wagner said.

Asked by Gill's lawyer Andrew Gilchrist if she had chosen not to give $6000 to receivers from subscription fees she'd received, Wagner said she had placed the money in a trust and would not repay it until the overall debt was settled. "I have an arbitration that says he owes me $340,000. I want my money," she told the court.

She claims the day after arbitration, Gill put the companies Digital Partners and BA Partners (BAP) into receivership, blocking the path to any civil suits to recover her debt, she said. Gill moved valuable assets including a NZ Netball contract and the websites into "fresh" companies, Digital Partners (NZ) and Brand Advantage Management and Consulting, it is alleged.

In doing so he created a shield against creditors, including Wagner, by leaving liabilities with DPL and BAP which by then had no means to meet such liabilities, the court heard.

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

Wagner, who retained a 25 per cent stake of the website companies, said she and Gill had intended to develop the business, which had now lost all its staff.

"We'd always talked about us, together, selling the websites," she said.

She claimed there had been adequate funds through Gill's associated companies to satisfy the debt.

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. BAP was also profitable, with revenue from NZ Netball of about $334,000 a year in 2010.

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She claimed Gill had since sold the websites for $450,000, more than he had paid her thus far. The case is set down to run for a week.

- The Press

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