Ivan Erceg loses Supreme Court appeal

Supreme Court rules on long-running and bitter family stoush over former NBR Rich Lister's fortune.

Former superyacht builder Ivan Erceg has been unsuccessful in trying to get documents from the trusts set up by his late brother Michael Erceg, following a decision by the Supreme Court.

Ivan Erceg tried to get disclosure over who got what when two trusts set up by his brother, a former NBR Rich Lister who was killed in a helicopter crash in 2005, were wound up five years later.

Ruling on the long-running and bitter family stoush, the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal in a judgment released today.

Ivan, a former bankrupt, got no payout from the trusts. He was not a named beneficiary of either trust but was a discretionary beneficiary.

He had been declared a bankrupt 10 months before the trusts were wound up. His company, Sensation Yachts, has since been liquidated.

Supreme Court judges Chief Justice Sian Elias, with Justices William Young, Susan Glazebrook, Terence Arnold and Mark O’Regan concluded that although Ivan had standing to bring the claim, disclosure would not be in the interests of the beneficiaries.

The judgment reveals Ivan Erceg received $95 million from his brother's will.

But during the hearing, lawyers for the trustees said Ivan Erceg was still in "enormous debt" and owed approximately $50 million as of 2014, according to stuff.co.nz.

Michael Erceg was settlor and trustee of the Acorn Foundation Trust and Independent Group Trust and on his death his widow, Lynette Erceg, and Darryl Gregory became trustees.

Ivan's subsequent request for documents about the trusts was turned down by the trustees because the trust deeds included a confidentiality clause that in their view had been included by Michael Erceg because he thought disclosure would “create further disharmony between family members where there was already an unfortunate history of tension and conflict.”

Ivan then brought proceedings against the trustees seeking orders that as a discretionary and final beneficiary they should be required to disclose various documents relating to administration of the trusts. His mother, Millie, who also didn't receive a distribution from the trusts, had had some earlier success in getting limited disclosure of the documents.

The High Court agreed with the trustees that Ivan didn't have the standing to seek disclosure because of his bankruptcy and found his main complaint seemed to be that he had not received any distribution from the trusts.

Ivan then went took the matter to the Court of Appeal, which in March last year released a ruling that disagreed with the High Court's finding over whether he had standing to bring the case. But it also found that the case's unusual circumstances required “fine judgement” about whether to order disclosure. The appellate judges upheld their High Court counterpart's conclusion to refuse his bid.

The Erceg family was estimated to be worth $1.6 billion last year in the NBR Rich List.

Independent Liquor was sold to Pacific Equity Partners, following the death of Michael Erceg. It was subsequently sold in 2011 for $1.5 billion to Japan's Asahi Group Holdings.

Ivan was ordered to pay the defendants $25,000 in costs.

Read the judgment here.

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