Tuesday 16 July 2019

Former billionaire O'Reilly and former nurse set for mediation over 'share promise'

Mediation: Former billionaire Anthony O’Reilly. Photo: David Levenson/Getty Images
Mediation: Former billionaire Anthony O’Reilly. Photo: David Levenson/Getty Images
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

One-time billionaire newspaper mogul Anthony O'Reilly is to enter mediation talks with his former nurse in a bid to end a long-running dispute over an alleged promise to give her millions of euro worth of shares.

According to an order published by a court in the US, Mr O'Reilly and Sabina Vidunas are to participate in mediation by August 1.

However, they will not come face to face during the process as Mr O'Reilly, who now lives in France, is to be allowed to participate via telephone or video conference call.

The mediation is to be conduced by a retired judge or an experienced lawyer.

The move came after a judge in Pennsylvania urged both sides to consider resolving their differences.

Mr O'Reilly (83) has been seeking to have his Bahamas bankruptcy recognised in the US, a move which would effectively halt efforts by Ms Vidunas to sue him there over the alleged share promises.

Earlier this year Judge Jeffery Deller refused an application to recognise the bankruptcy. A second application has since been filed by bankruptcy trustee Alastair Beveridge.

The dispute centres on claims by Ms Vidunas that Mr O'Reilly reneged on a pledge to give her around $40m (€35m) worth of shares.

She claims she was promised shares in US food processing company HJ Heinz and oil and gas exploration company Providence Resources.

As well as being a former CEO, chairman and shareholder in Independent News & Media, Mr O'Reilly was CEO and later chairman of HJ Heinz.

Ms Vidunas says she worked for Mr O'Reilly between 1995 and 2011 as a nurse and personal assistant and sued him in 2013 for breach of contract.

Two years later Mr O'Reilly filed for bankruptcy in the Bahamas. A statement of affairs filed in 2016 showed he had debts of around €170m, but just €4.6m in unencumbered assets.

In legal filings, Ms Vidunas said her duties included monitoring Mr O'Reilly's day-to-day health needs, accompanying him on trips and assisting in planning and scheduling his calendar. She claims that over an eight-year period up to 2009 Mr O'Reilly promised to place various tranches of shares in trust for her.

However, Mr O'Reilly has disputed her claims. In a legal filing his lawyers described her account of events as inconsistent, contradictory and implausible.

Irish Independent

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