A disenchanted son of a well known mining entrepreneur is suing the estate of his dead siblings because he was allegedly misled about the value of the family business before selling his part of it.
Wright Prospecting, which Lang Hancock’s business partner Peter Wright established, could be worth much more than the $6.8 million plaintiff Julian Wright received from late brother Michael Wright and sister Angela Bennett.
Julian accuses his siblings, who were company directors, deliberately misled him about the value of Wright Prospecting before buying out his share in the family business back in 1987. He also claimed damages for lost iron ore revenue that would have made him a billionaire alongside his siblings and Hancock’s daughter, Gina Rinehart (pictured).
The argument, which has continued for decades, recently escalated to a battle in the Supreme Court of Western Australia where the plaintiff claimed he only sold his stake because he feared he would not get along well with his brother and sister. Since they have already passed away Julian hopes to reclaim what he believes to be rightfully his.
Tax used as a ‘weapon’
Prosecuting lawyer Pat Zappia presented a conference phone call transcript dated September 1985 between Michael, Angela and then legal counsel Carnie Fieldhouse, who allegedly advised the pair to use a high capital gains tax bill as a “weapon” against Julian in order to offer a “really low” $8M or $9M amount.
A letter Michael wrote to Angela allegedly revealed Julian had originally asked for $10M but both siblings were reluctant to pay that much and instead used negative forecasts to bargain down the sale price to just $6.8M.
“The bloody experts, the bastards including our own, drive me to frustration sometimes,” Michael said in one letter obtained by the Australian Associated Press (AAP). “It is beginning to look as if his [Julian’s] demand for $10 million may be the only possible course of action left open to us, depending on how tractable he is.”
However, Wright Prospecting rejected Julian’s allegations as a retrospective attempt to “undo binding agreements he appears to now wish he had never entered into”.
“He was fully informed when he negotiated and entered into those previous deals, was independently advised by experienced lawyers and he cannot now overturn them by making baseless claims,” a company spokesperson told AAP.