Wife of richlister seeks legal aid

A bitter divorce in one of New Zealand’s richest families has resulted in the estranged wife, Elizabeth Black Goodfellow, filing for legal aid after being unable to personally pay the $270,000+ in legal costs she has incurred to date.

‘Libby’ Black has been separated from National Party President Peter Goodfellow since early 2009. Together with his father Douglas and brother Bruce, the Goodfellows are presumed to have a net worth in excess of a half billion dollars. They control scores of trusts and companies, mostly through blind trusts and third party companies. Libby is the granddaughter of U.S. Supreme Court luminary Hugo Black.

Peter has listed his occupation as “executive chairman” but claims little personal income. In what his wife considers to be a divorce strategy, he has resigned from a half dozen directorships in the last year.

Libby and Peter were married in 1990 after seven years in a defacto relationship. Cracks in the relationship developed in 2006. Mr Goodfellow was becoming volatile according to his wife in court papers and she had developed a dependency on pain killers. In 2007, Mr Goodfellow took his wife to the U.S. for specialist medical treatment for dependency. He returned without her and reportedly told friends she would not be returning.

Ms Black returned to Auckland in January 2009 and was awarded temporary occupancy of the matrimonial home in Orakei after a District Court Judge ruled she was the victim of domestic abuse. The home includes a half million dollar wine collection in its large, security-monitored cellar. Yet she is prohibited from selling any of it, or access to cash accounts. She struggled to pay the $1,000 power bills this winter.

Despite the extravagance in vintage wine – a further half-million dollars in wine is claimed to be held in the cellar under the Anzac Avenue offices of Peter’s father – parsimony governs the Goodfellow clan. The now 94-year old patriarch does not like parting with money not destined to make more money, although he has contributed extensively to various charities. His furtiveness and control over money matters is reportedly such that Peter did not know he had inherited $17 million from his grandfather until Deloitte’s informed the couple of the potential tax liability. The inheritance went into a tax structure that avoided the tax man. Ms Black claims to have no idea where this money is today.

It is claimed that Ms Black’s father, a retired lawyer in the U.S., gifted the couple $450,000 over the course of their marriage and contributed additionally to the updating of what was Peter Goodfellow’s childhood home in Orakei. The judge making the temporary possession order surmised this childhood connection may eventually tip the balance in Mr Goodfellow getting the house in division of property.

Mr Black recently fronted $125,000 toward his daughter’s legal bills and has expressed to kiwisfirst that he is as frustrated as his daughter at the forensic accountant’s seeming inability to unravel the myriad of companies controlled by various accountants and Goodfellow family friends.

An unseemlier side of power and privilege revealed itself in a search of the Court file, with documents disclosing that Mr Goodfellow’s lawyers had attempted to hand select Family Court Judge Peter Bouchier in the divorce case. This attempt was rebuffed by a Minute of Judge Ian McHardy.

Ms Black’s lawyer is Maureen Southwick QC. Mr Goodfellow is represented by Deborah Hollings QC, whose husband is Court of Appeal Justice Robert Chambers.

During much of the marriage Mr Goodfellow, a qualified solicitor, acted as his wife’s agent. In 2008, he enlisted Korda Mentha to revalue, and then strike off, companies he and his wife were involved in. The assets appear to have been absorbed at little or no value by other companies controlled by the Goodfellow family. No doubt by coincidence, Justice Chambers is a friend of Korda Mentha Manager Alan Garrett.

In her professional profile on the Bankside Chambers website, Ms Hollings claims to be the sole shareholder of her operating company Deborah Hollings Limited. However, the Companies Office shows a 50% shareholding by Justice Chambers.

Mr Goodfellow has made a financial settlement offer to his wife. His accounting shows a net value of the marriage assets to be $3.1 million, after a $600,000 mortgage on the matrimonial home is paid to his father. He has offered half.