BIT­TER SWEET

THE TH BAT­TLE FOR FO NOOSA CHOCO­LATE CH EM­PIRE E

The Courier-Mail - - FRONT PAGE - EX­CLU­SIVE VANDA CAR­SON COURT RE­PORTER

Fam­ily busi­nesses are not al­ways set up with le­gal and ac­count­ing ad­vice BAR­RIS­TER JOSHUA FEN­TON

A QUEENS­LAND fam­ily choco­late busi­ness is at the cen­tre of a bit­ter le­gal fight of “Shake­spearean” pro­por­tions, trig­gered by a “tragic” fam­ily breakup, a court has heard.

Noosa Choco­late Fac­tory co-founder Pam Thom­son has gone to court in a bid to block her son, Chris Thom­son, from sell­ing sim­i­lar choco­late bear­ing the NCF logo in his ri­val store, and from con­trol­ling the NCF web­site and so­cial me­dia pages.

Mr Thom­son, 31, was in a Bris­bane court yes­ter­day to re­spond to “dis­tress­ing” ac­cu­sa­tions made by his mother that he had “fla­grantly” im­per­son­ated her busi­ness.

Jus­tice John Lo­gan told the court the stoush had “a Shake­spearean qual­ity”.

Mr Thom­son of Lutwyche, re­signed in April as a di­rec­tor of To­bias Qld, a com­pany wholly owned by Mrs Thom­son which claims to own the busi­ness name of NCF.

He told the court he reg­is­tered the busi­ness name NCF in 2009. In the past month he be­gan trad­ing with part­ner Amy Sargeantson, sell­ing choco­late from a shop in Ade­laide St in Bris­bane’s CBD.

It is across the road from the two NCF stores and sells choco­late la­belled with the NCF logo and claim­ing to be NCF’s “founder”.

Mrs Thom­son, of Noosa Heads, al­leges her son has also taken the NCF web­site, its In­sta­gram and Face­book pages and MYOB soft­ware, be­cause he won’t give her the pass­words. She also ac­cuses him of tak­ing a Range Rover car as well as $500,000 in com­pany loans and choco­late-mak­ing equip­ment – claims Mr Thom­son de­nies.

Mrs Thom­son has asked the court to or­der he pay her “ex­em­plary dam­ages for fla­grant pass­ing off” of the busi­ness which re­port­edly turned over $4.5 mil­lion last year.

In court yes­ter­day, Mrs Thom­son was seek­ing an in­junc­tion to ban her son from us­ing the NCF name.

Mr Thom­son’s bar­ris­ter, Joshua Fen­ton, ar­gued “some­times the lines of own­er­ship” of fam­ily busi­nesses were blurred be­cause fam­ily busi­nesses were not al­ways set up with le­gal and ac­count­ing ad­vice.

Out­side court, Mr Thom­son said he grew the busi­ness by sell­ing at lo­cal mar­kets, with lit­tle in­put from his mother.

Jus­tice Lo­gan said Mr Thom­son started the com­pany with the help of his fa­ther, “who was a great choco­latier”, and his mother, “who has ob­vi­ously had very sig­nif­i­cant in­put”.

Both sides agreed to go to me­di­a­tion within the next month and, un­til it is com­pleted, to hand over the NCF In­sta­gram, Face­book and web­site to Mrs Thom­son’s com­pany, To­bias Qld.

FAM­ILY FALL­OUT: Chris Thom­son with his mother, Pamela Thom­son; and (in­sets) Mr Thom­son’s part­ner, Amy Sargeantson; and The Dark Choco­latier shop in Bris­bane.

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