BIG BUCK$ CAGE MATCH Fired exec tack­les Canada’s rich­est woman

24 Hours Toronto - - News - SAM PAZZANO

On the day James Law­son was fired as boss of Westerkirk Cap­i­tal Inc. in Novem­ber 2012, he paid him­self more than $4.9 mil­lion in re­tire­ment and sev­er­ance com­pen­sa­tion with­out no­ti­fy­ing Sherry Bryd­son, his boss and Canada’s rich­est woman.

Law­son, who ran Westerkirk for eight years, sub­se­quently filed a $24-mil­lion wrong­ful dis­missal law­suit against Bryd­son, an heir to the Thom­son for­tune. Brys­don, who’s be­lieved to be worth an es­ti­mated $6 bil­lion, launched a $14-mil­lion coun­ter­suit that cited ex­am­ples of Law­son’s mis­con­duct — in­clud­ing al­le­ga­tions of pornog­ra­phy and ques­tion­able real es­tate deals — that she ar­gues jus­ti­fies his sack­ing.

“This ($4.9 mil­lion pay­out) was con­trary to Westerkirk’s in­ter­ests both be­cause there was cause (to fire him) and be­cause the amount vastly ex­ceeded any po­ten­tial en­ti­tle­ment,” stated Bryd­son’s lawyer, Howard Le­vitt, in court doc­u­ments.

The trial of Law­son’s wrong­ful-dis­missal and Bryd­son’s coun­ter­suit was sched­uled to open in a Toronto court­room Wed­nes­day, but lawyers for both sides spent

James Law­son

all morn­ing in closed meet­ings. The case is sched­uled to re­sume Mon­day be­fore Jus­tice Peter Ca­vanagh.

Law­son has as­serted that he was dis­missed with­out cause, and ac­cused Bryd­son of us­ing the com­pany as a per­sonal piggy bank — for in­stance, mak­ing with­drawals of ap­prox­i­mately $106 mil­lion “with­out proper au­tho­riza­tion.” She de­nies this.

Law­son, who is chair­man of the Cana­dian Foot­ball League, ar­gued in court fil­ings that he was fired be­cause of his ef­forts to run Westerkirk pro­fes­sion­ally, and in­vest its cap­i­tal for the best pos­si­ble re­turn con­flicted with the Bryd­son fam­ily’s free-flow­ing man­age­ment style.

He ac­cused Bryd­son of act­ing as if she is the “ma­tri­arch of the Bryd­son fam­ily and owner of Westerkirk,” when she was in fact only a mi­nor­ity non-vot­ing eq­uity par­tic­i­pant, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Law­son said he didn’t treat the Bryd­son fam­ily dis­re­spect­fully but in the same way he would han­dle other busi­ness as­so­ci­ates who had dis­ap­pointed him, for ex­am­ple, by sleep­ing in dur­ing a busi­ness trip.

Le­vitt, mean­while, al­leged in court fil­ings sev­eral ex­am­ples of Law­son’s mis­con­duct that would jus­tify his ter­mi­na­tion as Westerkirk boss.

They in­clude the July 2011 sale of his daugh­ter’s Ritz-Carl­ton condo to Westerkirk for $1.5 mil­lion with­out re­veal­ing that price was al­most 40% above mar­ket value.

“To en­sure that he was able to cheat Bryd­son, he ex­erted pres­sure on both the real es­tate agent and the lawyer he was us­ing to rush the trans­ac­tion through ‘be­fore (Bryd­son) changed her mind,’” stated Le­vitt.

Le­vitt al­leged Law­son or­ches­trated Westerkirk’s sale of Strath­cona Mall in Cal­gary in 2011 against the com­pany’s best in­ter­ests — and Bryd­son’s de­sire to keep the prop­erty — to score a $759,691 bonus pay­ment so that he could pur­chase a Vero Beach Florida man­sion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.