Business Irish

Saturday 18 November 2017

Former Kilkenny boss 'destitute' and 'humiliated' after being axed

Greg and Marian O’Gorman are in a dispute concerning ownership of the well-known Kilkenny group of luxury design retail stores, including the chain’s flagship shop on Nassau Street in Dublin
Greg and Marian O’Gorman are in a dispute concerning ownership of the well-known Kilkenny group of luxury design retail stores, including the chain’s flagship shop on Nassau Street in Dublin

Tim Healy

A MAN and his mother are in a dispute concerning ownership of the well-known Kilkenny group of luxury design retail stores, the Commercial Court has heard.

Greg O'Gorman claims, after 13 years' service and with "no suggestion of misconduct or non-performance", his mother Marian, ceo of the firm running the Kilkenny stores, "summarily terminated" his employment as group marketing director last July in a "demeaning and humiliating" manner.

This left him, his wife and three children "financially destitute" and he has been unable to get alternative employment, he said.

Despite promises over years of a share transfer for his hard work, his mother last June 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 Mr O'Gorman and his three siblings, Christopher, Melissa and Michelle, he claims.

All four siblings hold a 25pc share, with his shareholding estimated to be worth €12.5m, it is alleged.

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

Kilkenny’s flagship shop on Nassau Street in Dublin
Kilkenny’s flagship shop on Nassau Street in Dublin

When the proceedings came before Mr Justice Brian McGovern at the Commercial Court yesterday, the judge said the case was "peculiarly suited" for mediation and urged the parties to consider that.

It would be "very undesirable" to have this family dispute involving a successful business being explored publicly, he said.

Rossa Fanning, for Mr O'Gorman, said he would convey what the judge had said but, unfortunately, there was a "history of acrimonious disputes", which Mrs O'Gorman, of Fernhurst Tower, Blarney, Co Cork, had found herself at the centre of over the years.

The judge agreed to join Christopher O'Gorman, of Castle Close Road, Blarney; Melissa O'Gorman, of Mount Street Crescent, Dublin 2; and Michelle O'Gorman, of Fernhurst Tower, Blarney, as notice parties in the case, which will come back to court in June.

Mr Fanning said Mr O'Gorman makes no criticism of his siblings and is not advancing any legal case against them but needs to join them as the outcome of the case would affect their interests.

Mr O'Gorman, of Castle Close Avenue, Blarney, said Clydaville Investments Ltd, which carries on the Kilkenny business brand, operates 15 stores employing 300 people, with its flagship store at Dublin's Nassau Street.

It had a €27m turnover in 2015 and he had secured a preliminary desktop valuation of some €50m for the business.

He was employed full-time by Clydaville between 2003 and 2016 and, after turning around the performance of the Galway store, was promoted by his mother to more senior roles and later to group marketing director. The business flourished, particularly during and since the economic recession, due "in no small part" to his management contribution, he said.

He made many personal sacrifices to ensure the success of the business, including working exceptionally long hours for a salary that did not reflect that, he said.

His mother represented he was effectively working for himself because of her promises to transfer a shareholding to him, he claimed. To give effect to "repeated" promises, she convened family meetings and instructed advisers from 2009 leading to her and all four children being bound by terms of the Family Constitution executed in September 2010, he claims.

That evidenced the creation of a family partnership involving the four children as general partners and their mother as managing partner, with Mrs O'Gorman continuing as the named shareholder of Clydaville but holding the shares in trust for the O'Gorman Family Partnership, it is claimed.

All parties complied with the terms of those documents until a company meeting of June 22, 2016, when his mother read a prepared statement saying the company was no longer to be considered as a "family company", he said.

His employment was summarily terminated without reasons shortly afterwards, he said.

He was "shocked and personally devastated" and found it "profoundly upsetting" his mother "publicly reneged on promises and commitments given to me over many years".

Irish Independent

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