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Auckland High Court entertained some of the country’s wealthiest people last week, as Rich Listers paraded for various matrimonal relationship property disputes.
Among matters at stake and of keen interest to the wider well-off community are the contents and disposition of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Gordian-style family trusts.
On Monday, the estranged wife of a political high-flyer lost her appeal against a Family Court decision involving their multimillion-dollar matrimonial property carve-up.
Despite their names and divorce details being widely gossiped around Auckland, their identities have so far been supressed by Justice Graham Lang, and they couple is identified only as ‘B’ (her) and ‘G’ (him).
Queen’s counsel Grant Illingworth, a Bill of Rights specialist, represents 'B' while divorce "Queen" Deborah Hollings QC – better known for fighting the ladies' corner – represents 'G'.
Although ‘B’ lost the appeal, which involved a Bill of Rights argument, NBR ONLINE understands the decision may still have provided her with some wriggle-room when the matter goes to trial early next year.
Rich Lister’s ex battles for his fortune
Sky TV founder Craig Heatley and ex-wife Katherine were also at Auckland High Court this week, where the screws were tightened on their slow-moving asset war.
It is understood Mrs Heatley wants half of Mr Heatley’s estate in the carve-up after their marriage of 20 years ended four years ago.
But she is up against the complex family trust structure of Mr Heatley, whose worth was valued at $220 million on the 2011 NBR Rich List.
Mr Heatley was the youngest-ever NBR Rich Lister when he first made the list in 1986 aged 31.
But he was dropped from this year’s list because he claimed his personal wealth was “negligible”. Since the Rainbow Corporation days of the mid-1980s and through the birth of Sky TV and beyond, “all assets sit with the Heatley family” and not with him personally, Mr Heatley told NBR earlier this year.
He established family trusts in the 1980s and was one of five trustees overseeing the various investments under the “family umbrella”, he said.
In this case, QC Deborah Hollings acts for Mrs Heatley, while her adversary, Anne Hinton QC, speaks for Mr Heatley in a legal battle which puts the Property (Relationships) Act up against Mr Heatley’s extensive trusts.