A battle royale has broken out over a landmark sculpture in Queenstown’s Gibbston Valley.
The black and busty statue – called Joie de Vie – has graced the gateway of Anthem Vineyards on the Gibbston highway for three years.
The Anthem development was the failed brainchild of Christchurch developer Dave Henderson – better known for his billion-dollar Five Mile project, which also crashed. He was bankrupted last November for $142 million.
Henderson’s down but not out – he’s jumping up and down about Anthem Holdings receiver Paul Sargison seizing Joie de Vie on Monday.
“Sargison is the Keystone Cop of the insolvency world,” Henderson fumes.
“I abhor bullies and Paul Sargison is being a bully because someone else is paying him to do so.
“He’s fee-farming, happily generating fees for himself.”
Auckland-based Sargison rejects all that – saying as receiver he’s got an obligation to sell all assets, including the sculpture, because Anthem Holdings owes $11.7m.
“And the statue’s getting damaged, someone’s taken a few rifle shots at it and broken a finger.”
After repairs, he expects to sell Joie de Vie for about the $55,000 it cost in 2007.
Sargison says someone laid a complaint with police about the sculpture’s removal – a Queenstown cop phoned him on Monday night but accepted the receiver had the right to take the statue away.
Henderson counterclaims that the finance company which appointed Sargison is only the second-ranking security holder.
The big bankrupt maintains that live companies associated with him – directed by a friend of Henderson’s since his bankruptcy – have higher legal powers as first-ranked security holder.
“The problem is – and Sargison knows this – as second-ranking security holder, he can arguably try and take [the statue]. But then the first-ranking security holder has to go and assert its rights – it’s so pathetic.”
His lawyers have already begun legal action, Henderson says.
Sargison’s relaxed about that: “We believe we’ve been validly appointed.”
Meantime, he’ll continue selling assets like the sculpture – “and if the court says [Henderson’s entities] have preference, we’ll pay the money to them”.
“We’re just doing our job,” the receiver says, “although Mr Henderson thinks it’s a personal vendetta against him.”
Henderson admits affection for Joie de Vie, by Christchurch sculptor Llew Summers: “It’s a gorgeous sculpture and quite a landmark along the road there.”
The bankrupt entrepreneur even says “my entity will pay for [the repairs]”.
Sargison: “If he wants to, that’s fine – I’d be happy to see a cheque.”