Menegazzo court saga drags on

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Peter and Angela Menegazzo died in a plane crash in late 2005. The family of the late Queensland cattle barron, Peter Menegazzo,remainembroiled in a court room inheritance stoush, with one child claiming his three siblings short-changed him with a $60 million settlement.

When multimillionaire Queensland cattle baron Peter Menegazzo died alongside his wife Angela in a fiery, New South Wales plane crash in 2005, the 62-year-old was the quintessential self-made man.

The son of Italian immigrants built his half-billion-dollar, gulf country cattle empire on the modest foundation of his parents’ Melbourne fruit and vegetable store.

Mr Menegazzo became Australia’s most prolific potato farmer before expanding to cattle in the 1980s and eventually becoming the sole owner of the enormously lucrative Stanbroke Pastoral Company, which runs 1.6 million hectares of pastoral land in northern Queensland.

It was bought for the then-record rural sale price of $417 million in 2003 and Mr Menegazzo bought his partners out just a year later.

Upon the sudden deaths of Mr and Mrs Menegazzo, the couple left their entire estate, including the control of numerous, vast cattle properties, a feedlot and a meatworks, to his three sons Brendan, David and Mark, and his daughter Debra, each in equal measure.

Mr Menegazzo fronts the media in May 2004, 18 months before his death, to announce he is the new sole owner of Stanbroke Pastoral Company. Photo: Robert Rough

Now, Mark Menegazzo remains locked in a long-running court feud with his siblings, claiming the trio short-changed him when he opted out of the family businesses for $60 million in 2007.

The Menegazzo family’s wealth was estimated at $499 million on the 2015 BRW family rich list, which ranked them in 26th place.

After the deaths of their parents, all four children became trustees of the Stanbroke Investment Trust but it was not long until divisions arose over the running of the properties.

Mark agreed to relinquish his positions in all companies and trusts his father had left to his four children after a meeting between the four siblings moderated by a QC in 2007.

In exchange, he received full ownership of Vanrook Station in the Queensland Gulf, which had been independently valued at nearly $56 million, along with a quarter share in a number of other properties.

His siblings also agreed to absolve an $18.5 million debt he owed.

In a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court of Queensland in November, 2013, Mark claimed his siblings short-changed him after reaching a “secret agreement”, something he unsuccessfully sought to change in the most recent court ruling, delivered on Tuesday.

He unsuccessfully attempted to amend his statement of claim to read that the trio did not deliberately undervalue the combined value of the estate but instead it was the result of “equitable common mistake”.

He continues, however, to pursue them for the $40 million extra he claims he is entitled to.

It is a hugely public fight for the children of an intensely private man, which, Justice Peter Applegarth, in his findings on Tuesday, said could be summarised very simply.

“Once upon a time there were pastoral and other properties owned by the Stradbroke Group in which four children, whose parents had died, each had an interest,” he said.

“The children did a deal and one of the children received valuable properties and the forgiveness of an $18.5 million debt for his interests.

“He now says he did not get enough.”

However, it is not just his siblings Mark Menegazzo is taking on.

In the same lawsuit, he is suing financial services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, claiming they grossly undervalued the family’s combined assets at $340 million, which determined the agreed $64 million settlement figure.

He is also suing valuers Jutland Pty Ltd for the same valuation, along with McCullough Robertson lawyers, which he claims breached its duty of care to him.

Since filing the original statement of claim in November 2013, Mark Menegazzo has changed law firms three times, each time either filing or abandoning the new filing of an amended statement of claim.

It has significantly delayed proceedings and, as such, his three siblings are yet to file responses.

A date is yet to be fixed for the matter to return to court.

The story first appeared on The Brisbane Times.

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