Former Queenstown developer’s ex loses $9.7m court case

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A former Queenstown high-flyer’s ex-wife – who spurned his divorce settlement offer of $1.6 million – has lost her subsequent $9.7m court case.

Wendy Perriam was married to Mark Perriam, whose companies developed the swanky Sofitel hotel in Queenstown’s CBD which opened in 2005.

Wendy was appealing an adverse 2012 verdict to try to keep alive her multi-million claim against five partners of Mark’s Invercargill lawyers Macalisters and their insurer.

In an inter-family twist, Macalisters partner Lawrence Wilkes, is Wendy’s former brother-in-law – he’s married to Mark’s sister.

Wendy and Mark were married in 1991 and separated in 2004.

According to Justice Mark Woolford’s appeal decision this month, Mark Perriam made several relationship property offers to Wendy between 2005-2009 – the largest $1.6m – which Wendy rejected.
Too bad – Mark’s 50 per cent-owned Perron Group collapsed owing $142m and the high-flyer was bankrupted in June 2010.

Justice Woolford sums up Wendy’s case by quoting from her lawyer’s submissions: “[Macalisters] have dishonestly assisted in the breach of trust/fiduciary duty of [Mark] by setting up trusts, alienating property and allowing [Mark] to plunder vast amounts of money without any accounting to [Wendy].”

Amid a raft of financial claims totalling $9.7m, Wendy maintained she was “robbed of the opportunity…to share in the ownership of the [Queenstown] Sofitel land”.

Justice Woolford says one of Mark’s trusts had a half-share in the Sofitel site.

The prime Queenstown CBD land was bought for $3.27m and later sold for $13m – a capital gain of $9.7m or almost 300 per cent.

Justice Woolford: “The general allegation by [Wendy] is that in breach of Macalisters’ fiduciary duties to [her], they knowingly and fraudulently assisted [Mark] to defeat her claim or rights under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.”

But the judge wouldn’t have a bar of that.

Agreeing with the earlier judgment, Justice Woolford resoundingly struck out Wendy’s claim: “The alleged losses suffered by the plaintiff were not caused by any actions or omissions on the part of Macalisters.”

Mark’s assets weren’t lost by Macalisters, the judge rules, but by the failure of Mark’s business empire.

Justice Woolford: “The assets would have been lost even if [Mark had still] owned them personally.

“[Wendy] probably now regrets not accepting [Mark’s] offer of $1.6m to settle the relationship property proceedings.

“[Mark] was to borrow the money to settle [with Wendy] but was unable to do so when he was bankrupted.”

Justice Woolford says one claim was “an extraordinary proposition” and others were “quite wrong”.

The bottom line is there’s no money available, the judgment says.

Mark, discharged from bankruptcy in June 2013, didn’t return Mountain Scene calls.

Macalisters partner Lawrence Wilkes – Wendy’s brother-in-law – says he can’t comment because there may be an appeal “and there’s also the issue of costs that haven’t been sorted out”.