Man loses Porsche in $155m family feud
A high-profile Australian businessman and racing car driver has lost a bitter, years-long court battle after being sued by his own mother and sisters.
The complicated saga began back in 1996 after the death of patriarch William Twigg, who had founded a successful landfill business.
Although his wife Diane Twigg became the director and chairperson of the family's companies, her then 25-year-old son Max was appointed second director, according to a court judgment that detailed the background to the family dispute.
Max Twigg expanded the Twigg Group business, which was held in a family trust, and in 2007 it was sold to Cleanaway for $155.8 million.
At the time, Mr Twigg gave his mother Diane and sisters Frances and Elizabeth each a $5 million "gift", although most of that cash was lost in the global financial crisis.
Mr Twigg's sisters were largely uninvolved in the details of the trust, but after they ended up with a capital-gains tax bill, they discovered the family trust had essentially been drained, including the staggering proceeds of the sale of the family business.
In a scathing judgment handed down this week, NSW Supreme Court Justice Michael Ball said it was "not possible" to say exactly where the bulk of the rest of the money from the sale went, but noted "a substantial proportion" went to Mr Twigg.
"It appears that he thought that the success of the business and the highly attractive offer that was made for it were the results of his efforts and that as a consequence he was entitled to the lion's share of the benefits and that that entitlement provided a justification for what he did," Justice Ball said.
Justice Ball added that Mr Twigg "distributed a large proportion of the proceeds of sale of the Twigg Group business to himself without explaining to Mrs Twigg what he was doing in the hope that she would say nothing".
"As I have said, that is not the conduct of an honest person," he said.
Following the sale, the GT endurance racing champ put some of the money towards investments including Byron Bay's iconic Beach Hotel, which he purchased in 2007 for $47.2 million before selling it off a decade later for $70 million.
According to legal documents seen by news.com.au, Mrs Twigg was also aware that her son had "bought two expensive properties on the Gold Coast, that he owned a number of expensive sports cars and that he and his family had an extravagant lifestyle".
Justice Ball noted the family feud had taken a toll on Mrs Twigg, who was "quite often emotional when giving evidence and was no doubt upset by what has happened to her family and her role in the events giving rise to this litigation …"
He found Mr Twigg's payments to himself without his mother's knowledge represented a "breach of duty by him or the intermeddling by him in the affairs of the relevant trusts" and that his mother and sisters were entitled to "equitable compensation in respect of Max's breach of fiduciary duties".
As a result, he will have to hand over a range of assets including a string of properties, $9 million in cash and a new, $650,000 Porsche.
Earlier this year, Mr Twigg's sprawling estate in Harkaway in Victoria smashed the previous record for the area after selling for more than $9 million - more than double the previous $4.41 million record set in 2011.
Originally published as Man loses Porsche in $155m family feud