‘Privileged’ Greystones couple fight over division of business after breakup

Woman claims she helped build up business that allowed them live luxury lifestyle with horses, a yacht and a €1.6m holiday home

Property business success allowed Owen Owens and Ali Barker buy a holiday home in the French resort of Mougins

Property business success allowed Owen Owens and Ali Barker buy a holiday home in the French resort of Mougins

 

A south Dublin businesswoman has sued her former partner, claiming she is entitled to a share in a property business they allegedly built up together over years.

Owen Owens disputes those and other claims by Ali Barker and also wants orders requiring her to leave the house where she currently lives.

Ms Barker is suing Mr Owens, with an address at Rochfort, The Burnaby, Greystones, Co Wicklow, and a company founded by him, Dunbury Holdings. Represented by Martin Hayden SC and Gary McCarthy SC, she seeks various declarations including that the company constitutes a quasi-partnership between her and Mr Owens and they are each entitled to 50 per cent of the equity in the partnership.

She also claims the company and Mr Owens’ business activities comprise a partnership between the two and that she is a cohabitant within the meaning of the 2010 Civil Partnership Act entitled to seek reliefs under that Act.

Ms Barker, of Hillcourt Park, Glenageary, Co Dublin, also wants damages.

The claims are denied by Mr Owens, represented by David Conlan Smyth SC, who says no business partnership ever existed between him and Ms Barker. The couple split in 2010, after 17 years together.

Ms Barker says she and Mr Owens got together after her marriage to another party didn’t work out. She claims shortly after they got together, on his invitation, she quit her job in retail and worked with him in the property business. She claims she became a director of the firm in 2002, was first paid a salary in 2005 and helped it build up a substantial portfolio by acquiring commercial, retail and residential properties mainly in the Dublin area.

She claims she was very actively involved with a very successful business that allowed she and Mr Owens enjoy a privileged lifestyle. They had a daughter together in 1999, she added. They had a substantial home in Wicklow, a €1.6 million holiday home in Mougins, France, a personal staff contingent, luxury vehicles, a 47ft yacht, horses, luxury travel, and significant spending power, she claims.

In 2010 the relationship broke down and she claims Mr Owens cynically engineered a situation to end their personal relationship in order to deprive her of the protections and rights she says she would have been entitled to under the 2010 Civil Partnership Act.

She claims she moved out of the home they shared due to his behaviour and he directed the company to discontinue paying her and excluded her from the business. She also claims Mr Owens commenced a relationship with a friend of hers, which she believes began when Ms Barker and Mr Owens were still together.

In his defence and counterclaim, Mr Owens denies all the allegations and says she has no entitlement to anything in the business. He says he never provided a guarantee of lifelong security through a partnership with him and never invited her to resign from her job in 1994.

He denies Ms Barker worked with him or developed his property interests and claims their only business relationship was from 2005 to 2010 when she was a salaried employee of his business. It was accepted she became a director of the company.

He rejects claims his behaviour towards her deteriorated in 2010 and claims the relationship deteriorated due to Ms Barker’s conduct. He rejects claims he cynically engineered a situation to deprive her of protections under the 2010 Act and says she has no entitlements under the Act which commenced in January 2011 and their relationship ended in April 2010. His new relationship began after his and Ms Barker’s had ended, he also says.

He wants orders including for possession of the house where she resides in Glenageary.

The case before Mr Justice John Jordan opened on Wednesday and was adjourned to Thursday after the parties entered into discussions aimed at resolving the dispute.