Dame gives ev­i­dence: ‘Call me Jenny’

Taranaki Daily News - - Business - John An­thony

For­mer prime min­is­ter Dame Jenny Ship­ley has given ev­i­dence in the High Court at Auck­land, de­fend­ing al­le­ga­tions she and other for­mer di­rec­tors of col­lapsed con­struc­tion com­pany Mainzeal traded reck­lessly.

The liq­uida­tors of Mainzeal Prop­erty and Con­struc­tion (MPC) al­lege the firm con­tin­ued trad­ing while it was in­sol­vent and are su­ing some of its for­mer di­rec­tors, in­clud­ing Ship­ley, for $75 mil­lion to re­pay cred­i­tors.

In open­ing her ev­i­dence Ship­ley was asked whether she would like to be called Dame Jenny. ‘‘I’m happy to be called Jenny,’’ she said.

Ship­ley, who was prime min­is­ter from 1997 to 1999 and an MPC direc­tor from 2004 to De­cem­ber 2012, said the board of Mainzeal was dili­gent and care­ful, in the cir­cum­stances faced at the time.

‘‘We kept the in­ter­ests of Mainzeal’s cred­i­tors, em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers firmly in mind at all times and en­deav­oured to pro­tect their in­ter­ests and avoid loss’’ Ship­ley said.

Ship­ley runs her own con­sult­ing and ad­vi­sory busi­ness and has a num­ber of in­ter­na­tional board roles.

When MPC went into liq­ui­da­tion in 2013 it was one of the largest con­struc­tion com­pa­nies in New Zealand.

Mark O’Brien, QC, rep­re­sent­ing MPC liq­uida­tors An­drew Bethell and Brian Mayo-Smith of BDO, said dur­ing his open­ing of the trial last month that the com­pany’s col­lapse left un­se­cured cred­i­tors with debts well in ex­cess of $117m.

The plain­tiffs who brought the civil pro­ceed­ings are funded by LPF Group. In re­turn, LPF Group re­ceives a per­cent­age of the out­come if the case is suc­cess­ful.

It is al­leged that MPC cred­i­tors would have been $40m bet­ter off if the con­struc­tion com­pany had been put into re­ceiver­ship in early 2011 – two years be­fore it even­tu­ally was.

De­fen­dants in­clude Ship­ley, China-based share­holder Richard Yan, for­mer MPC chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Gomm, Clive Tilby, Sir Paul Collins, Siew Kwan, Richina Global Real Es­tate and Isola Vine­yards.

Jack Hod­der, the lawyer de­fend­ing Ship­ley, Gomm, Tilby and Collins, said, in an open­ing state­ment sup­plied to Stuff by the plain­tiffs, that if MPC been liq­ui­dated in early 2011 rather than the ac­tual Jan­uary 2013, liq­ui­da­tion losses would have been far greater for cred­i­tors.

The trial, which started on Septem­ber 17, is set down for eight weeks.

EMMA ALLEN/ STUFF

Dame Jenny Ship­ley ap­peared in the pub­lic gallery dur­ing the early days of the Mainzeal trial. Yes­ter­day, she took the wit­ness stand.

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