Greymouth Petroleum shucks off disaffected shareholder

Prepares to welcome a new 14% shareholder on its share register after winning a High Court action.

Minnow oil and gas player Greymouth Petroleum is preparing to welcome a new 14 percent shareholder on its share register after winning a High Court action brought by the company's former chief operating officer, John Sturgess.

Mr Sturgess was effectively sacked in February 2011 over a number of disputes which included claims of multiple breaches of fiduciary duty by Sturgess, with potential for damages claims totalling $40 million.

He had sought a court-ordered sale of 100 percent of Greymouth, whose other two shareholders are chairman and chief executive Mark Dunphy with a controlling 52 percent stake and well-known Auckland businessman Peter Masfen with 34 percent.

"The court has determined that Mr Sturgess and his associated interests must sell their 14 percent stake," they say in a statement.

They looked forward to welcoming a new shareholder "whose vision aligns with ours", with an announcement to be made "when appropriate".

BusinessDesk reported in March last year claims by Messrs Dunphy and Masfen that Mr Sturgess committed to capital expenditure without board approval, made investments with company resources for personal gain and hired unapproved personnel “who had family or personal connections with him”.

Mr Sturgess was accused of “repeatedly failing to report appropriately, honestly and accurately to the executive chairman or the board in relation to drilling activities, issues and decisions”.

The judgment said “the evidence … is cogent and sufficient to establish that, on their (Dunphy's and Masfen's) view of the world, there have been serious breaches of duty".

Greymouth claims to be New Zealand’s second-ranked private petroleum production company, measured by daily oil production, and in the top four local and foreign-owned oil production companies with New Zealand oil and gas production.

The company also has exploration interests in southern Chile and employs more than 300 people in both countries.