Nathan Tinkler, the biggest shareholder in Whitehaven Coal Ltd., proposed buying Blackwood Corp. to avoid having to testify in court about his finances, an Australian judge was told.
New South Wales Superior Court Justice Paul Brereton today dismissed Tinkler’s bid to avoid taking the stand, ruling against his claim that the liquidator of his former company Mulsanne Resources Pty was abusing the court process by using the examination as leverage in negotiations. The judge’s decision allows the liquidator’s lawyers to question Tinkler beginning on March 14.
Blackwood sought to wind up Tinkler’s Mulsanne in November after it failed to pay A$28.4 million ($29.2 million) it owed for shares it agreed to buy in the coal developer. Tinkler didn’t contest the order in court at the time, which was granted by New South Wales Supreme Court Registrar Nicholas Flaskas.
Blackwood’s board turned down a takeover offer from KN Coal Pty, a Singapore-based company controlled by Tinkler, on March 7. The directors said they would consider a modified proposal if Tinkler provided a A$15 million guarantee, Alec Leopold, Tinkler’s lawyer, said at a hearing in Sydney today.
Tinkler approached Blackwood saying “please, do a deal,” Robert Newlinds, lawyer for the Mulsanne liquidator Ferrier Hodgson, said in court today. “I don’t want to be examined publically.”
Ferrier Hodgson sought to force Tinkler to testify in court about his finances, wanting to know, according to Newlinds, how Mulsanne could have agreed to pay A$28.4 million for the Blackwood shares without having any funding in place.
Tinkler failed to show up for the court-ordered testimony on March 8.
The liquidator’s move to compel Tinkler to testify “doesn’t begin to approach abuse of process,” Brereton said in his ruling today, delivered from the bench following a 4 1/2-hour hearing.
Tinkler was listed as one of three directors of Mulsanne in a December Australian Securities and Investments Commission [CONFIRM] company extract. Mulsanne was created in April, and agreed in May to invest A$28.4 million for a 34 percent stake in Blackwood, which is controlled by commodity trader Noble Group Ltd. and is developing coal mines in Queensland state.
The ruling putting Mulsanne in liquidation exposed Tinkler, an electrician-turned-mining investor, personally to creditors, said Marina Nehme, a senior lecturer at University of Western Sydney’s School of Law. The Australian Tax Office sought to liquidate eight Tinkler companies in December for unpaid taxes. Tinkler has settled most of those claims since.
Tinkler’s Dassault Falcon 900C jet and AgustaWestland A109S helicopter were seized after TGHA Aviation Pty was placed in receivership on Nov. 23 at the request of GE Commercial Australasia Pty, Nathan Landrey, a partner at the receiver Taylor Woodings in Sydney said.
The aircraft are being advertised for sale, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Tinkler’s business journey began when he sold his house in 2006 to help buy the A$30 million Middlemount coal lease in Queensland before selling it a year later to Macarthur Coal Ltd. for about A$465 million in cash and shares. More recently, his wealth and personal indebtedness has been the subject of speculation.
Whitehaven said in August Tinkler abandoned his plan to take over the coal miner for A$5.3 billion without giving a reason. The company’s stock has fallen 56 percent in the past year, as coal prices declined.
The case is In the matter of Mulsanne Resources Pty. 2012/00296966. Supreme Court of New South Wales (Sydney).