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Supreme Court ends Greymouth Petroleum stoush

Thursday 9th October 2014

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The Supreme Court has effectively ended a bid by interests associated with estranged Greymouth Petroleum minority shareholder John Sturgess to overturn a High Court order requiring the Sturgess interests to sell their 13.85 percent shareholding back to the company's two other shareholders, business figures Mark Dunphy and Peter Masfen.

Chief justice Dame Sian Elias and Justice Terence Arnold concluded the application by Jet Trustees, a corporate trust representing Sturgess family trusts, raised "no issue" of general, public or commercial significance. The Court of Appeal had dismissed a similar application from Sturgess interests in June.

"Given that factual issues were explored in detail in the courts below, against the background that Mr Sturgess did not give evidence, we see no risk of a substantial miscarriage of justice."

The case laid bare for public scrutiny the falling out that occurred in 2010 and 2011 between Sturgess, who was the small-fry oil and gas explorer and producer's chief operating officer, and Dunphy and Masfen. They terminated Sturgess's contract for “repeatedly failing to report appropriately, honestly and accurately to the executive chairman or the board in relation to drilling activities, issues and decisions.”

A High Court judgement in March 2012 detailed complaints of “mismanagement and negligence”, and authorising capital expenditure which had led to the company incurring “substantial wasted expenditure and lost significant opportunities”.

Sturgess is also alleged to have hired people with family or personal connections and engaged in “a series of transactions with company property or interest for his personal benefit and without the prior knowledge of the executive chairman or the board.”

He had argued the company should be wound up, but the courts have confirmed rulings he must sell his shares to other two shareholders.

Sturgess has been ordered to pay costs of $2,500.





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