Wednesday 20 September 2017

Family ripped apart in Kilkenny store battle opt to try mediation

Ex-US president Bill Clinton visiting the Kilkenny Shop on Dublin’s Nassau Street this year. Photo: Doug O’Connor;
Ex-US president Bill Clinton visiting the Kilkenny Shop on Dublin’s Nassau Street this year. Photo: Doug O’Connor;

Tim Healy

A judge has expressed hope for a successful mediation of a bitter dispute between a son and his mother concerning ownership of the well-known Kilkenny group of retail stores.

Mr Justice Brian McGovern, having been told at the Commercial Court the sides had agreed to explore mediation, said that was "very wise", and he hoped there would be a successful outcome.

Rossa Fanning SC, for Greg O'Gorman, on consent of Bill Shipsey SC, for Marian O'Gorman, secured an adjournment for three weeks to facilitate the mediation.

Greg O'Gorman's case is against his mother Marian, of Fernhurst, Tower, Blarney, Co Cork, who is CEO of the company running the Kilkenny stores. She denies his claims.

Mr O'Gorman's father Michael and siblings Christopher, of Castle Close Road, Blarney, Co Cork; Melissa, of Mount Street Crescent, Dublin 2; and Michelle, of Fernhurst Tower, Blarney, were all joined as notice parties to the case because its outcome will affect them.

Greg O'Gorman claims his mother "summarily terminated" his employment as group marketing director in July 2016 in a "humiliating" manner after 13 years' service and "no suggestion of misconduct or non-performance" on his part.

Marian with Michael and Greg O’Gorman. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Marian with Michael and Greg O’Gorman. Photo: Don MacMonagle

This left him, his wife and three children "financially destitute", he said.

He claimed, despite promises over years of a share transfer for his hard work, his mother in June 2016 publicly repudiated a signed 'Family Constitution' document under which she held legal ownership of shares in the company in trust for the O'Gorman Family Business Partnership comprising himself and his siblings.

All four siblings hold a 25pc share, with the estimated value of his shareholding at €12.5m, it is alleged.

The "enormous personal toll" of these events had been compounded by marital disharmony between his parents who recently separated after 41 years married, he added.

The interior of one of the shops. Photo: Damien Eagers
The interior of one of the shops. Photo: Damien Eagers

When admitting the case to the Commercial Court last February, Mr Justice McGovern urged the parties to consider mediation.

Mr Fanning, for Mr O'Gorman, said unfortunately there was a "history of acrimonious disputes" which Mrs O'Gorman had found herself at the centre of over years.

Mr O'Gorman, Castle Close Avenue, Blarney, said Clydaville Investments Ltd, which carries on the luxury design retail Kilkenny business brand, operates 15 stores and employs 300 people.

He was employed full-time by Clydaville between 2003 and 2016 and was ultimately promoted by his mother to group marketing director.

Michelle, Greg and Melissa O’Gorman. Photo: Tony Gavin
Michelle, Greg and Melissa O’Gorman. Photo: Tony Gavin

The business flourished particularly during and since the economic recession, due "in no small part" to his management contribution, he said.

A 'Family Constitution' executed in September 2010 created a family partnership involving the four children as general partners and their mother as managing partner, with Mrs O'Gorman continuing as named shareholder of Clydaville but holding the shares in trust for the O'Gorman Family Partnership, he claimed.

At a company meeting on June 22, 2016, his mother read a statement that the company was no longer to be considered as a "family company" and his employment was summarily terminated without reasons shortly afterwards, he said.

Irish Independent

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