David Statham.
David Statham.

Monopoly game that ended up in court

ONE of Queensland's richest families is embroiled in a bitter legal battle over treasured memorabilia, including a Monopoly set, decorative wooden ducks and a beetle-shaped boot jack, triggered by billionaire Gina Rinehart's purchase of their cattle station.

Patriarch Neil Maxwell Statham, 84, and his wife Anne Shirley Statham, 84, from Broadbeach Waters - whose family has a combined worth estimated at $379 million from its beef and cotton empire - this week took their youngest son David Statham and his wife Danielle to Southport District Court.

The lawsuit was a bid to force their son and daughter-in-law to return items of historical family memorabilia including an original Monopoly set - in the family for nearly 50 years, with "sentimental value" - and a fabric duck doorstop.

After a short hearing in court on Tuesday, David and Danielle Statham agreed "not to dispose, deal with or diminish in value" the 119 items the elder Stathams allege were removed from their northern NSW cattle station Sundown Valley shortly before it was sold to Rinehart on August 1.

Judge Catherine Muir also ordered on August 28, that David and Danielle tell the court which of the 119 items were in their possession, where they were, and how they were stored.

The couple must also reveal if any items were sold with Sundown Valley, near Armidale, the family's 18,000ha farm.

The station in Kingstown, NSW, was sold to Gina Rinehart's Hancock Agriculture.

David and Danielle Statham must also file a defence to the claims in court by September 25.


Danielle and David Statham in 2002
Danielle and David Statham in 2002


Sundown Valley was a family holiday home for 36 years until 2000, and was transferred to David three years ago as part of a restructure of the empire after a family dispute, the court heard.

Neil, who suffers from mental impairment as a result of the stroke, and Anne, who has dementia, are represented by their daughter Philippa Goninan, 53, who holds their power of attorney.

Ms Goninan told the court she did not speak to David and Danielle, despite living only a few doors down from her brother and sister-in-law.

"Our relationship is estranged and limited to matters relating to our parents' welfare," she said.

Her elderly parents, who Ms Goninan said were not in good health, also live nearby.

Ms Goninan alleged in court that her sister-in-law Danielle had exhibited violent behaviour towards her and her parents' belongings, alleging Danielle had burned Ms Goninan's personal belongings from the Sundown Valley farm, describing the act as a "cleansing ceremony".

Ms Goninan told the court her relationship with Danielle was further strained by Danielle scraping her stiletto high heels into her new wooden floors at Ms Goninan's Gold Coast hinterland holiday home three years ago during her 50th birthday party.

The bitter legal stoush was triggered nine days after the Rinehart sale, when Ms Goninan told David she wanted to visit Sundown Valley to retrieve their parents' personal possessions and family memorabilia.


Sundown Pastoral Co principal David Statham
Sundown Pastoral Co principal David Statham


David, who is now at the helm of the family beef company Sundown Pastoral, replied that he knew what items belonged to his parents and their personal items would be removed from the house by himself, and he would organise for the items to be taken to his parents' place.

The next day David told Ms Goninan their parents' personal items had been securely packed and removed from Sundown Valley homestead under his supervision.

But five days later, when the truck arrived at Neil and Anne's palatial waterfront Broadbeach Waters home, a total of 119 items were missing, Ms Goninan alleges.

Most of the allegedly missing items, including a $19,000 Alex Steinbach grand piano, are believed to be in a locked shipping container on David's beef station in Moree, NSW, the court heard.

Neil Statham, who Ms Goninan says can communicate sufficiently despite his stroke, told Ms Goninan to get his prized belongings, and did not understand why Ms Goninan could not go there, the court heard.

David's lawyer told Ms Goninan she was banned from his station, the court heard. Neil Statham told Ms Goninan to take the matter to police.


Sundown Valley Homestead near Armidale
Sundown Valley Homestead near Armidale


David's lawyers told Ms Goninan that she must give proof of ownership of the items, which Goninan told the court was impractical because they were mementos, many of which were over 50 years old.

David's lawyers told Ms Goninan he did not accept that any of the listed 119 items are or were his parents' property, or that Ms Goninan can assert any ownership rights on their behalf. But Ms Goninan's lawyers allege David has failed to claim that he, his wife, or his company own them.

David claims that he took his father to Sundown Valley and he had identified various items he wished to take possession of, and they were delivered to Broadbeach Waters.

Neil Statham grew his beef fortune supplying beef to Woolworths and other large companies, and expanded into cotton, having earlier found success in selling 2000 sheds to former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Court documents state the family's beef empire was restructured three years ago, resulting in David taking control of the family's beef business and, under the settlement deed, Ms Goninan was to be paid $66 million.

Their brother Murray, who lives in Sorrento on the Gold Coast, also received a payment.

The case has been adjourned to a date to be fixed.

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