Queenstown developer’s marathon legal scrap

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Queenstown developer Chris James faces a new round in a marathon legal battle with the liquidator of his defunct company.

James’ protracted scrap with liquidator Grant Reynolds over the failed James Developments firm is headed for the Court of Appeal. 

The origin of their legal war of attrition goes back to 2007, when James Developments agreed to buy Cromwell land from Mana Property Trustee for $5 million. After paying a $450,000 deposit, the James company failed to settle, cancelling the purchase because the land area was allegedly less than that agreed.

Mana successfully sued for default and James Developments appealed – with the appeal pending, the Queenstown developer appointed a liquidator to dissolve his company because it couldn’t pay its debts.

Dunedin liquidators appointed by James continued the appeal and initially won back the $450,000 deposit – only for Mana to overturn that verdict and retain the money.

In November 2010, another liquidator was appointed – Reynolds – who set about pursuing James personally for $60,904 paid to him by James Development before it went phut.

James claimed he was entitled to the $60,904 because he’d effectively funded litigation for the benefit of James Developments.

James initially won in the High Court in August 2012 – however, a recent judgment now grants liquidator Reynolds the right to appeal that verdict and try to claw back the $60,904.

Reynolds’ latest liquidator’s report also claims there’s a separate and larger legal action pending.

Reynolds alleges a trust which holds all shares in James Developments should repay a $740,000 advance made to the trust by the defunct company. 

James didn’t return Mountain Scene calls this week.

James, originally from the United States, has had a long development career in the Wakatipu.

In Queenstown, James’s landmark property is Bungy Backpackers on Stanley Street. In Arrowtown, he owns The Stables and Postmasters restaurants and developed a two-level commercial precinct.

James has a new home in the exclusive Preserve at Jack’s Point.