Mediation hope in family row over Kilkenny group ownership

A judge has expressed hope for a successful mediation of a bitter dispute between a son and his mother concerning ownership of the well-known Kilkenny group of luxury design retail stores, employing 300 people.

Having been told at the Commercial Court yesterday that the sides had agreed to explore mediation, Mr Justice Brian McGovern said the decision was “very wise”, that he was glad to hear it, and that hoped there would be a successful outcome.

Rossa Fanning SC, for Greg O’Gorman, on consent of Bill Shipsey SC, for Marion O’Gorman, secured an adjournment of the proceedings for three weeks to facilitate the mediation.

Greg O’Gorman’s case is against his mother Marian, of Fernhurst, Tower, Blarney, Co Cork, who is CEO of the company running the Kilkenny stores.

She denies his claims.

Mr O’Gorman’s father Michael and siblings Christopher, Castle Close Rd, Blarney; Melissa, Mount St Crescent, Dublin 2; and Michelle, Fernhurst, Tower, Blarney, were all joined as notice parties to the case because its outcome will affect them.

Greg O’Gorman claims his mother “summarily terminated” his employment as group marketing director in July 2016 in a “humiliating” manner after 13 years service and “no suggestion of misconduct or non-performance” on his part.

This left him, his wife, and three children “financially destitute” and he has been unable to get alternative employment, he said.

He claimed that, despite promises over years of a share transfer for his hard work, his mother in June 2016 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. All four siblings hold a 25% share, with the estimated value of Greg O’Gorman’s shareholding 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 married, Greg O’Gorman added.

When admitting the case to the Commercial Court last February, Mr Justice McGovern said it was “peculiarly suited” for mediation and urged the parties to consider that.

Mr Fanning, for Greg O’Gorman, said he would convey what the judge had said but added that, unfortunately, there was a “history of acrimonious disputes” which Marian O’Gorman had found herself at the centre of over the years.

Greg O’Gorman, Castle Close Avenue, Blarney, said Clydaville Investments Ltd, which carries on the luxury design retail Kilkenny business brand, operates 15 stores with its flagship store at Dublin’s Nassau Street. He had secured a preliminary desktop valuation of some €50m for the business.

He was employed full-time by Clydaville between 2003 and 2016 and was ultimately promoted by his mother to group marketing director. The business flourished particularly during and since the economic recession, due “in no small part” to his management contribution, and he worked exceptionally long hours for a salary that did not reflect that, he said.

His mother represented that he was effectively working for himself because of “repeated” promises to transfer a shareholding to him, he claimed.


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