Redtail golf course co-owner gets court OK to fight business partner

A palatial Elgin County golf club that's entertained A-list celebrities and royalty is the subject of a legal battle that’s shaping up to be as storied as the ultra-exclusive Redtail Golf Club itself.

A palatial Elgin County golf club that’s entertained A-list celebrities and royalty is the subject of a legal battle that’s shaping up to be as storied as the ultra-exclusive Redtail Golf Club itself - writes

The years-long spat between Redtail’s founders and sole shareholders, John Drake and Chris Goodwin, is deepening after a judge’s decision has paved the way for the company to take its longtime manager to court.

In the 10-page ruling, Justice Kelly Gorman granted permission for one-time silent partner Drake, acting on behalf of Redtail Inc. and Redtail Food and Beverage Services Inc., to start legal action against Goodwin, who is general manager of the club, over allegations of financial and managerial wrongdoing.

In her writtendecision, Gorman said the planned action by Drakemakes an“arguable claim that Goodwin breached his duties to Redtail and that he acted in a conflict of interest to the possible detriment” of the company.

“My client is pleased with the ruling,” said Peter Kryworuk, Drake’s lawyer. “The court made it very clear that it found that Mr. Drake is acting in good faith and in the best interest of Redtail.”

With Drake granted permission under Section 246 of Ontario’s Business Corporations Act to start derivative action against Goodwin, Goodwin’s lawyer, Angelo D’Ascanio, has filed for leave to appeal Gorman’s decision.

D’Ascanio has submitted his notice to the divisional court in Toronto and declined to comment further.

In the original court filing, Drake raised concerns over the financial actions of Goodwin, who has managed day-to-day operations of the club since it opened in 1992. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Friction between the London business moguls erupted in April 2012 when Drake announced he wanted to take a more active role in the golf club’s operations, the court document said.

In the filing, Drake alleges Goodwin, as manager of Redtail, made payments to his wife, Janice Goodwin, from the company account. The wire transfers and cheques issued to Goodwin’s wife between March 2013 and June 2015 totalled at least $80,605, Drake alleges.

None were authorized or approved by Drake, an allegation that has not yet been tested in court.

“Goodwin did not disclose the payments to his wife until Drake confronted him at a directors’ meeting in 2017,” the court filing said.

“At that time Goodwin said the payments were for reimbursement of expenses and compensation for services his wife had performed at Redtail, such as gardening and decoration.”

In a June 2017 letter with supporting documents, Goodwin explained the payments to his wife were reimbursements for renovation and improvement projects at the golf club.

In the court document, Drake also alleges Goodwin green-lit bonuses for two employees without his approval in December 2016. The sum handed over to the employees was $10,250 more than Drake had agreed to.

Goodwin had already issued the bonus cheques before Drake disapproved of the amount, the court filing said, adding Goodwin felt his partner’s opposition was based on “animosity” toward one of the employees.

Redtail also paid management fees to Privit Inc., a London-based health tech company founded and led by Goodwin, the court documents allege.

Privit employees did bookkeeping and other administrative tasks for Redtail. Starting in May 2016, Redtail paid fees to Privit over and above the $7,000 a month Drake had agreed to, the court filing said.

While the request for appeal sits before the courts, Kryworuk said Drake, acting for Redtail, has submitted a statement of claim against Goodwin to recover the bonuses, management fees and payments to Goodwin’s wife.

The two longtime London businesspeople co-founded Drake Goodwin Corp. in 1986, an investment company with ties to financial services, manufacturing and real estate. The pair made a fortune buying and eventually selling copper pipe manufacturer Wolverine Tube.

They banded together to build the sprawling $2.2-million Port Stanley-area retreat in 1991, a world-class course only an elite few have had the privilege of playing.

Over its nearly three-decade history, Redtail has played host to Hollywood royalty Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hugh Grant and Sean Connery. Queen Elizabeth II stayed at one of the golf course’s cottages during a visit to Canada.

But even with the legal fight swirling around the storied property, Kryworuk said Redtail’s visitors — famous or not — are unlikely to notice anything different when golf season ramps up this spring.

“There will be no change, it will be status quo,” Kryworuk said. “I’m sure there will be no noticeable changes whatsoever.”

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