Judge gives cinema mogul Tom Anderson bad review in Pod judgment

Consortium made ‘unscrupulous attempt’ to leverage extra concessions, judge finds

Mr Justice Brian Cregan: gave businessman Tom Anderson what could politely be described as a dressing down. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Mr Justice Brian Cregan: gave businessman Tom Anderson what could politely be described as a dressing down. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

That ringing sound you can hear is possibly coming from the ears of Tom Anderson, the former chairman of Aim-listed Circle Oil.

The businessman this week received what could politely be described as a dressing down from Mr Justice Brian Cregan.

It came in a High Court judgment over a dispute concerning a stalled deal to open a Las Vegas-inspired nightclub on Dublin’s Harcourt Street, which was to be financed by the scion of the Anderson cinema- owning family.

Grab yourself some popcorn and a bucket of soda. The judgment is a thriller, utterly fascinating for its level of detail about the approach to business of one of Ireland’s most publicity-shy investors.

Anderson was part of a consortium including radio investor Mike Ormond and publican Colin Dolan, which in 2012 approached former Pod nightclub owner John Reynolds about leasing the premises from him after the Pod shut.

The two sides fell out over the terms of the deal, including the building of a new fire escape, before settling a High Court case in 2014.

That settlement promptly fell out of bed when the deal wasn’t closed as arranged, resulting in another trip to the courts, which Reynolds won this week.

The lease is to be rescinded and Reynolds is to be awarded damages for breach of contract, after the judge found the Anderson consortium had made “an unscrupulous attempt” to leverage extra concessions from him.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Cregan said Anderson, the main financier of the deal, was the “key architect” of the consortium’s strategy in relation to Reynolds.

The beak expressed bemusement that Anderson had such a “strange relationship” with the consortium’s solicitor, Simon Carty, to whom he had apparently never spoken despite being represented by him.

The judgment recalls how, under oath, Anderson explained why he didn’t want his own consortium’s solicitor to know anything about his finances.

“You’ve got to understand that Mr Carty has no idea what my status is,” said Anderson. “He has no idea whether I have funds or not and I don’t want him to know . . . I don’t want guys like that putting pressure on me ...”

Reynolds’s counsel asked what he meant by “guys like that”.

Anderson responded: “People who aren’t on my slate.”

Reynolds’s lawyer asked: “Are you telling me you don’t trust him?”

“He doesn’t know me,” replied Anderson.

The judge said this exchange demonstrated “how evasive Mr Anderson was in the witness box”.

The judge then criticised Anderson for having “scant regard for the discovery process” for delaying the discovery of documents relating to his finances.

“This . . . can only be characterised as a deliberate attempt to mislead the court,” said Mr Justice Cregan. “The extent to which Mr Anderson sought to mislead the court in relation to the payment of monies is clear.”

The judge also criticised Anderson for adding extra conditions to the deal to rent Pod after everything with Reynolds had already been agreed via the first High Court settlement. This was “an abuse of process”, the judge said.

“To behave in this manner in respect of an agreement is simply unscrupulous behaviour; to permit a defendant to behave in such an unconscionable manner in respect of a court order would be inequitable. A defendant cannot treat court orders with such a lack of respect,” thundered the judge.

I wonder if there will be another sequel.

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