Alex van Heeren's assets include the luxury Huka Lodge.
Photo / Jim Eagles
Wealthy businessman Alex van Heeren, owner of the luxury
Huka Lodge, is due to file a defence in a month's time to a
17-year-old court claim brought by his former business partner
who is seeking half of the assets they built up together.
Van Heeren and his former business partner Michael Kidd
worked together in the international steel trade for about 15
years and acquired an empire of assets before parting ways in
That year, Kidd signed a document in South Africa which was
said to settle all disputes between the parties and indemnify
van Heeren against all claims brought by Kidd relating to any
company or business the parties were involved with anywhere
in the world.
In 1996, Kidd brought a claim in the High Court in New
Zealand against van Heeren seeking half of the assets they
built up during their partnership.
When the pair split, Kidd claims he received only US$3
million of assets valued conservatively at US$38.5 million
that included over 30kg of gold, Huka Lodge and Fiji's
Dolphin Island resort.
Van Heeren relied upon the indemnity document as his defence
to this claim and in 1997 the High Court put a stay on the
litigation until the South African courts had declared the
validity and scope of the document.
In a judgement last May, South Africa's Judge Kathy Satchwell
declared the indemnity document null and void.
In her decision, the judge said Kidd was induced to sign the
indemnity by van Heeren's "deliberate misrepresentations".
"These misrepresentations were false ... these
misrepresentations were intended to induce Kidd to sign the
indemnity and did so induce Kidd to sign. These
misrepresentations would have induced any reasonable person
to have entered into the indemnity," the judge said.
Van Heeren made a bid to take the case to South Africa's
Supreme Court of Appeal but his application for leave to
appeal was dismissed last October.
The Supreme Court did not give the full reasons for its
decision but indicated it was of the view that the appeal had
no reasonable prospect of success.
Lawyers for both van Heeren and Kidd appeared briefly this
week before Justice Murray Gilbert in the High Court at
Auckland, which heard the stay on the New Zealand litigation
was no longer in effect and had lifted on its own terms.
Kidd's lawyer Brent O'Callahan said the plaintiff would
proceed using the original pleadings.
The Queen's Counsel for Van Heeren, Christopher Hodson,
indicated he would file a statement of defence by May 14.
Hodson told the Herald earlier this year that Huka Lodge was
not at stake in the litigation.
However, Judge Satchwell's decision said she is satisfied
that Kidd's and Van Heeren's partnership made acquisitions
that included Huka Lodge. According to documents from
property website QV, Kidd filed a caveat over the Huka
Lodge's 6.7ha property in February.
- Hamish Fletcher, NZ Herald