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Appeals denied in $400m family trust spat

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 7/10/2016 Sophie Boot

The Court of Appeal has rejected an attempt by two of deceased NBR Rich Lister Hugh Green's children to have their sister removed as trustee of the $400 million family property business.

It has also declined to reinstall the siblings to the trust because of their intense hostility and attempts to remove an adopted grandchild as a beneficiary of the trust.

Siblings Frances and John Green asked the appeal court to throw out the High Court's ruling last year which removed them as trustees of one of the trusts that control the business empire and reinstated their sister Maryanne Green, following Justice Helen Winkelmann's ruling that a new will that Green made just months before he died of cancer in July 2012 should be overturned.

The only change in the will was adding John and Frances as directors and trustees along with Auckland barrister Michael Fisher.

In the High Court ruling, Justice Winkelmann found that Hugh Green had been vulnerable and John had instigated Maryanne's removal in 2012.

The "level of hostility they [John and Frances] feel and exhibit" towards their sister Maryanne and niece, Alice Piper, was sufficient to mean the trusts couldn't operate for the benefit of all its beneficiaries, she said.

The Court of Appeal on Friday backed that ruling.

After Hugh Green's death, John and Frances questioned whether Alice was eligible as a beneficiary as she was adopted.

If adopted beneficiaries were excluded, most of the wealth Hugh created would ultimately go to John and Frances's six children.

The bench was also critical of the conduct of Michael Fisher, who played golf with John and had known him since they were teenagers.

Fisher had purported to act as Hugh's primary legal adviser from November 2011, and drafted the documents for Maryanne's removal and his own apppointment as a trustee and director, despite not being the trust's usual lawyer.

The costs of all parties will be met by the trust.

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