Branka Simunovich's daughters eye $20m claim against Ivan
JONATHAN UNDERHILLTUESDAY MAY 1, 2012
BUSINESSDESK: Two daughters of olive beauty products producer Branka Simunovich, who died suddenly last June, are considering making a claim potentially worth $20 million against her estranged husband, Ivan Simunovich.
A law firm acting for Dante Moulton and Jadranka Boric cites the proceeds of a potential claim against cashed-up businessman Ivan Simunovich, who now lives in Croatia, as being included in the residue of their mother’s estate.
The claim would be made under section 88 of the Property (Relationships) Act and “could be $20 million”, according to the High Court judgment from Judge Christopher Toogood.
The details of the potential claim emerged in a judgment on costs related to the estate sought by Ivan’s son Peter Simunovich after the two sides failed to agree last year on who should have the right to be the administrator of Branka’s estate.
Ivan built up a fishing empire that dominated New Zealand’s scampi industry before the business was sold to listed fishing group Sanford in 2004 for $137 million.
According to the April 17 judgment, his interest was worth $50m.
The Simunovich family’s wealth was put at $200m in NBR’s 2011 Rich List.
At the time of the sale, Ivan had been living in a de facto relationship with Branka for about 11 years.
They married in 2007, but separated about two years later, when Ivan left for Croatia, having migrated to New Zealand almost half a century ago.
Branka migrated from Croatia in 1993 with her two daughters and her then husband, who returned home almost immediately.
With second husband Ivan she developed Simunovich Olive Estate in the Bombay Hills south of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest such plantation, and launched a range of cosmetics based on olive oil and leaf extract.
The estate also houses the Bracu restaurant.
According to the Companies Office, Simunovich Olive Estate is 51% owned by Ivan and 49% by Branka.
However, her interest is given as “a shareholder’s loan account in the books” of the estate of about $1.65m, based on Peter Simunovich’s application to be administrator, cited in the judgment.
Branka’s other assets included bank accounts, a life insurance policy of $630,000, and a mortgaged house in Pukekohe valued at $305,000, it said.
Judge Toogood accepted some of Peter Simunovich’s application for costs but others would be shared, given the to-ing and fro-ing that occurred between the two parties.
The Public Trust has subsequently been appointed as administrator by agreement of both parties, according to the judgment.
Branka didn’t leave a will or appoint an executor or trustee for her estate, though according to the judgment she left a "testamentary document" titled “My Last Measge” (sic), “in which she purported to make dispositions of particular assets”.
While the Simunovich family are on the Rich List, the judgment notes that Branka’s daughters are “apparently of limited financial means”.
Judge Toogood said: “I do not doubt that the prospect of a substantial relationship property claim was one of great significance to them.”
James White, left, David Yu and Yanxi Guo have big plans for Kiwi exports to Asia. Photo / Supplied
A pair of young Kiwi entrepreneurs have taken it upon themselves to represent New Zealand at a Northeast Asia trade expo in China this week.
The move is part of a $1 million investment David Yu and James White are making to ramp up exports of New Zealand products to the region.
They are evangelical about the potential for New Zealand goods in Asia.
"There's a huge demand for our products, I mean huge," Yu said. "Honestly, I'm crying trying to get our product out."
Yu started his first business at 17 - a gaming retail chain that now has five New Zealand outlets and a couple of dozen franchises across Asia.
The Taiwanese/New Zealander and White, his long-time business partner, have now turned their attention to promoting clean, green Kiwi goods.
Everything from honey and wine to healthcare and cosmetics are on their stand at the Jilin Northeast Asia Investment and Trade Expo, held in the northern Jilin province.
Yu has also just opened two retail stores in Taipei that sell New Zealand beauty products, such as the Simunovich family's Olive and Tebe ranges. A Tebe spa in the city will follow.
The pair's clients include 10 wineries and they even export their own brand of honey.
Yu estimated that by the end of the year he would have invested $1 million in the projects. "We are an incubator for these brands. Doing business in Asia is very, very different. I'm a great trader because I know how. It's who you know in Asia, not what you know."
These connections have enabled Yu and White to set up a stand at the invitation-only Jilin expo.
The six-day event is expected to draw 100,000 visitors a day.
White said he and Yu offered Kiwi companies something unique because they operated in New Zealand and China.
His fiancee Yanxi Guo is based in China running the importing operation, while he handles the New Zealand end.
"It removes many of the normal risks associated with doing business in China and, believe me, there's a lot of risk."
White said New Zealand suppliers had a hard time when it came to understanding the market.
CJ Pask managing director Kate Radburnd admits freely that she is one of those suppliers and says the Hawke's Bay winery has had mixed success with China, until now.
In the past couple of months, it has shipped more than 36,000 bottles, making the country its fourth-biggest export destination. The winery sees "immense potential" in its association with Yu.
"We have sent containers of wine [to China before] but it hasn't been ongoing business. Whereas this is the first time where we've seen continuity and I'm sure it's because of David's relationships."
Branka Simunovich said she probably would have moved her brand to China at some stage but, with Yu's investment and enthusiasm, sales of her Olive and Tebe beauty ranges were booming.
It now sends more of its body milk product to Taipei than it sells in New Zealand in a year.
"That's all happened in about six months. That's amazing and that's only because of David."
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's China director, Tim Green, said there were thousands of trade fairs in the region each year and Jilin wasn't on the agency's radar.
However, Yu and White were "absolutely" the sort of people New Zealand businesses needed to represent their interests in the market. "The more of these sorts of channels we can establish the better."
Yu said New Zealand's free trade agreement with China was giving it an advantage over the rest of the world but it would be a narrow window and Kiwis needed to act. "Everyone says to me, 'Oh yeah, we have to be in China' but no one's doing anything about it."
Name: David Yu
Born: Taiwan, emigrated to New Zealand 1989
Career: Set up the Vagabond and Livewire gaming stores in 1996. Company makes the Deloitte Fast 50 ranking in 2004. Yu nominated for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2008.