One of New Zealand's richest men, Sir Owen Glenn, is
locked in a bitter $400 million court battle over the fortune
he built up over 40 years.
The Warriors co-owner is suing his former business partner
and close friend of 30 years, David J. Miller, for US$350m
($400m), alleging he was duped in the aftermath of the sale
of his global logistics business in 2012.
Miller and another longstanding business adviser, Peter
Maxwell Dickson, were charged with managing Glenn's affairs
after the sale - US$350m from the proceeds went into a trust
based in the Caribbean tax haven of St Kitts & Nevis. The
pair were trustees.
Court documents associated with the lawsuit in the US show
Sir Owen believed he would retain "de facto" control of the
trust's assets, so he could spend the money as he saw fit.
However, that did not happen.
So he is suing the pair for the equivalent of the US$350m in
the trust, and in papers filed as part of the court action,
he also alleges they took millions of dollars in trustees'
fees they were not entitled to.
The National Business Review Rich List estimates Sir Owen's
personal wealth at $900m.
The upcoming hearing promises to be explosive, as decades of
financial wheeling and dealing and an intimate knowledge of
each other's personal lives could be dredged up.
The battle has restricted funds Monaco-based Sir Owen
promised for charity work in New Zealand - including his
domestic abuse inquiry and community work in Otara, South
However, the court action is not believed to be associated
with his falling-out with his co-owner of the Warriors league
team, Eric Watson.
The American legal stoush has been under way for almost two
years - it was filed in the Superior Court of California in
September 2012 - but this is the first time details have been
The court hearing was due to begin last week in California,
but the lawsuit has been beset by delays, including
allegations that Glenn lied about his whereabouts to avoid
giving a deposition.
In court papers, Sir Owen says Miller had advised him to set
up trusts in 1985. He says Miller was entrusted to do so, but
that he wanted to retain "de facto ultimate decision-making
authority" over his assets.
Sir Owen alleges that in not carrying out his wishes,
Miller's "wrongful conduct" had deprived him of the
unrestricted use of proceeds from the sale of his business.
"Further, [Miller's] abuse of his position ... and
concealment ... of material facts enabled him to extract
millions of dollars in purported trustee and protector fees
for himself and Peter Dickson without [Sir Owen's] knowledge,
consent or approval, all while [being] paid compensation and
bonuses ... in ignorance of his wrongful conduct."
As a result of the dispute, Miller and Dickson were removed
as trustees last September. The trust is now being managed by
a court-appointed trustee.
Miller, a chartered accountant based in Los Angeles, has been
a financial adviser to Sir Owen since 1985, and is godfather
to at least one of his children.
Dickson, a Bermuda resident, is a former director of Sir
Owen's New Zealand company Vanguard Logistics Services and
was one of his most trusted advisers.
Miller denies the allegations, but declined to comment when
contacted by the Herald on Sunday this week. Dickson did not
respond to interview requests.
Lawyers acting for Miller filed court papers accusing Sir
Owen of "gamesmanship", "repeated misrepresentations" and
Court documents claim Sir Owen said he never visited
California and the deposition would need to go ahead "at
great expense" in Monaco.
"However, Glenn's representations were false, and [Miller]
was able to find Glenn residing in Newport Beach,
California," the paper said.
He eventually made a statement to lawyers in September last
year in Sydney.
Miller's lawyers told the United States court they would need
to subpoena some of Sir Owen's global network of lawyers and
In preliminary legal skirmishes, lawyers acting for Miller
probed Sir Owen's motives for moving to Monaco in 2003, and
whether it was for the purpose of tax avoidance.
Sir Owen refused to answer, claiming attorney-client
But writing in his 2012 book Making a Difference, Sir Owen
said: "If I'd stayed in the United States and sold the
company I would have had to pay significant capital gains
It is understood Sir Owen wanted to avoid paying capital
gains tax in the US to maximise the amount going towards his
charity, the Glenn Family Foundation.
Sir Owen could not be reached for comment, but his spokesman
Ian Fraser told the Herald on Sunday that Sir Owen regarded
these as "entirely private matters" and did not intend to
According to the 2013 Financial Secrecy Index, St Kitts &
Nevis was told it must "make major progress in offering
satisfactory financial transparency". It was blacklisted
during the 2000s by some European countries as being
unco-operative in the fight against money-laundering.
Warriors chairman Bill Wavish was not aware of the court case
and said it hadn't affected the club.
"The club board and management and players are involved in
neither the ownership negotiations nor the legal actions and
are therefore getting on with business as usual."
Wavish said negotiations around the sale of Sir Owen's 50 per
cent stake in the club continued.
"I think Owen has appointed someone to negotiate on his
behalf but the negotiations are ongoing."
In Sir Owen's book Making A Difference, Miller wrote a
tribute to his former partner's skills in business
"The opposing negotiator, decidedly naked after the first
round, would experience in the second round a tearing away of
his guts followed by a feeling of complete disembowelment of
his stated opinion."
The lawsuit is due to be heard before a jury in October.
- By Bevan Hurley of the Herald on Sunday