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Branka Simunovich's daughters eye $20M claim against Ivan Simunovich

Monday 30th April 2012

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Two daughters of olive beauty products producer Branka Simunovich, who died suddenly last June, are considering making a claim potentially worth $20 million against her estranged husband Ivan Simunovich.

A law firm acting for Dante Moulton and Jadranka Boric cites the proceeds of a potential claim against the cashed-up businessman Ivan Simunovich, who now lives in Croatia, as being included in the residue of their mother’s estate. The claim would be made under section 88 of the Property (Relationships) Act and “could be $20 million”, according to the High Court judgment from Judge Christopher Toogood.

The details of the potential claim emerged in a judgement on costs related to the estate sought by Ivan’s son Peter Simunovich after the two sides failed to agree last year on who should have the right to be the administrator of Branka’s estate.

Ivan built up a fishing empire that dominated New Zealand’s scampi fishery before the business was sold to listed fishing group Sanford in 2004 for $137 million. According to the April 17 judgment, his interest was worth $50 million. The Simunovich family’s wealth was put at $200 million in NBR’s 2011 Rich List.

At the time of the sale, Ivan had been living in a de facto relationship with Branka for about 11 years. They married in 2007, but separated about two years later when Ivan left for Croatia, having migrated to New Zealand almost half a century ago.

Branka migrated from Croatia in 1993 with her two daughters and her then husband, who returned home almost immediately.

With second husband Ivan she developed Simunovich Olive Estate in the Bombay Hills south of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest such plantation, and launched a range of cosmetics based on olive oil and leaf extract. The estate also houses the Bracu restaurant.

According to the Companies Office, Simunovich Olive Estate is 51 percent owned by Ivan and 49 percent by Branka. However, her interest is given as “a shareholder’s loan account in the books” of the estate of about $1.65 million, based on Peter Simunovich’s application to be administrator, cited in the judgment.

Branka’s other assets included bank accounts, a life insurance policy of $630,000, and a mortgaged house in Pukekohe valued at $305,000, it said.

Judge Toogood accepted some of Peter Simunovich’s application for costs but others would be shared, given the to-ing and fro-ing that occurred between the two parties.

The Public Trust has subsequently been appointed as administrator by agreement of both parties, according to the judgment.

Branka didn’t leave a will or appoint an executor or trustee for her estate, though according to the judgment, she left a ‘testamentary document’ titled “My Last Measge” (sic) “in which she purported to make dispositions of particular assets.”

While the Simunovich family are on the Rich List, the judgment notes that Branka’s daughters are “apparently of limited financial means” and Judge Toogood said: “I do not doubt that the prospect of a substantial relationship property claim was one of great significance to them.”

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