Building tycoon Len Buckeridge has put an exclamation mark on his bitter long-running legal battle with his former business partner Julian Walter, winning higher-than-usual costs in the aborted defamation case.
Although the action, sparked by an article written by Mr Buckeridge in his company BGC's internal magazine, was withdrawn by Mr Walter in 2011, the warring parties continued to argue over costs.
Mr Walter will now be forced to pay the higher-than-usual legal fees of his one-time business partner, after WA's Supreme Court backed the removal of its usual cap on costs in similar cases. Given the length of the case, a payment of hundred of thousands, and maybe even seven figures, is likely.
However, it is more pride than money that will likely concern the protagonists. Mr Walter's wealth was estimated at $167 million in last year's Rich List, while Mr Buckeridge was WA's third-richest person with a $2.4 billion fortune.
In a judgment handed down late last month, Supreme Court Judge Rene Le Miere approved the removal of standard daily cost limits, given the prominence and importance of the matter.
"I am satisfied that greater costs were incurred by (Mr Buckeridge) in this action than usual by reason of the importance of the matter," Justice Le Miere said.
"(Mr Walter) says that the article . . . in effect called him a thief and a criminal by accusing him of having committed many acts of stealing from J-Corp (their joint venture).
"The issues in the action had the potential to seriously affect the reputations and standing of the parties. That is in part reflected by the manner in which the action was conducted on both sides and that both sides engaged senior solicitors and experienced counsel."
Mr Walter ended his challenge in 2011 saying he was frustrated at the system and his lawyers said too much time had elapsed to undo the damage done to his reputation by Mr Buckeridge's comments.
The defamation actions were launched over comments relating to Mr Buckeridge buying Mr Walter out of his half share of their former home building joint venture J-Corp, then believed to be WA's biggest housing company.
Mr Buckeridge, who was represented by King & Wood Mallesons, simply noted the final settlement was still to be determined. "The costs of course will have to be taxed," he said. "So there may be disputes about that."Mr Walter said he was glad to be rid of the matter. "I suppose like everyone I have lost interest," he said. "I left it up to (my lawyers) Clayton Utz."
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