Aussie expat and global grog kingmaker Philip Bowman may be a small and skinny fellow. But he’s also known as “the man who doesn’t blink”, as his dumped de facto, Geraldine de Malet, is discovering as she sues the CEO of Allied Domecq for half his Australian property assets in the Victorian Supreme Court.

Bowman might have flicked his long-time Franco-Australian lover for his English secretary, but he’s leapt into the arms of a new French partner with last week’s $20 billion takeover bid for Allied Domecq from Pernod-Ricard, backed by US liquor giant Fortune Brands. If de Malet thought it would be all over just by hiring Allan Myers QC and issuing the embarrassing proceedings, she’s been proved wrong so far. Firstly, Crikey hears that Bowman has retained two sets of lawyers – one for him personally and the other for his company, which owns the properties under threat. This is presumably a contingency plan in the event that one set of lawyers gets conflicted out of the game.

But de Malet’s bigger problem is that Bowman will walk away with an estimated $20 million-plus in cash from Allied Domecq after exercising and then selling all his options at the lofty bid price he extracted from his French and American suitors. Therefore, he has a cash pile to drain de Malet’s resources, which will be stretched by Myers who charges $8,000 a day.

Geraldine might want to try to bring the case on quickly because Crikey is hearing rumours that Myers may be surrendering his practising certificate on 30 June this year. When you’re worth $500 million-plus, you don’t exactly need to work for a living, but Myers is said to enjoy the stimulation of his legal exploits. But it seems the concept of doing the required 10 hours of additional legal education work to remain “qualified” in 2005-06 is all too much and Australia’s richest lawyer simply can’t be bothered.

A change of lawyers mid-stream is not what you want when you’re up against someone worth tens of millions of dollars with a reputation for never blinking, so let’s hope Geraldine has a good plan B up her sleeve.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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