A bitter dispute between a son and his mother concerning ownership of the Kilkenny group of luxury design retail stores, employing 300 people, has come before the Commercial Court.
Greg O’Gorman claims, after 13 years’ service and “no suggestion of misconduct or non-performance on my part”, his mother Marian, chief executive of the company running the Kilkenny stores, “summarily terminated” his employment as group marketing director last July in a “demeaning and humiliating” manner.
This left him, his wife, and three children, “financially destitute” and he has been unable to get alternative employment, he said.
Despite promises made over years of a share transfer for his hard work, he claimed his mother last June publicly repudiated a signed “family constitution” document, under which she held legal ownership of shares in the company in trust for the O’Gorman Family Business Partnership, comprising himself and his siblings Christopher, Melissa, and Michelle. All four siblings hold a 25% share; his shareholding was estimated at €12.5m, it is alleged.
The “enormous personal toll” of these events has been compounded by marital disharmony between his parents, who recently separated after 41 years of marriage, he said.
When the proceedings came before Mr Justice Brian McGovern at the Commercial Court yesterday, the judge said the case was “peculiarly suited” for mediation and urged the parties to consider that. It would be “very undesirable” to have this family dispute involving a successful business being explored publicly, he said.
Rossa Fanning, for Mr O’Gorman, said he would convey what the judge had said but, unfortunately, there was a “history of acrimonious disputes” which Mrs O’Gorman, of Fernhurst, Tower, Blarney, Co Cork, had found herself at the centre of over years.
The judge agreed to join Christopher O’Gorman, Castle Close Rd, Blarney; Melissa O’Gorman, Mount St Crescent, Dublin 2; and Michelle O’Gorman, Fernhurst, Tower, Blarney, as notice parties, and returned the case to June.
Mr Fanning said Mr O’Gorman makes no criticism of his siblings and is not advancing any legal case against them but needs to join them as the outcome of the case would affect their interests.
Mr O’Gorman, of Castle Close Avenue, Blarney, said Clydaville Investments Ltd, which carries the luxury design retail Kilkenny business brand, operates 15 shops, with its flagship store at Dublin’s Nassau St. It had a €27m turnover in 2015 and he had secured a preliminary desktop valuation of some €50m for the business.
He was employed full-time by Clydaville between 2003 and 2016.
In a company meeting on June 22, 2016, his mother read a prepared statement saying the firm was no longer to be considered as a “family company”, he claimed. His employment was summarily terminated without reasons shortly afterwards, he said.
He lodged a claim for unfair dismissal before the Workplace Relations Commission in December 2016 and sought advice leading to this case been initiated.
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