Self-made billionaire Nathan Tinkler may be a whizz at picking coal deposits but he’s not so smart when it comes to buying toys or running court cases, to judge by today’s setback over the Supercar Club in the NSW Supreme Court.

In essence, Tinkler lost the case — or failed to win — despite tough talk from his entourage before the legal bout began.

Today’s 112-page judgment from Justice White harks back to events of 2008 and 2009, when the Newcastle electrician decided to pump a couple of million dollars into an outfit called the Supercar Club, which allowed rich members to drive superfast and super expensive cars for $50,000 a year.

Tinkler loves fast cars and already had a load of them, including a $1 million Bugatti Veyron, a $740,000 Rolls Royce drophead coupe and a Merc or three. And he used the club to buy yet more.

But it did not take long for the wheels to fall off. Within less than a year of investing his money, Tinkler had done his dough and fallen out with the club’s founder and managing director, Tim Sommers, whom he sacked unceremoniously in August 2009.

Sommers, as Crikey readers will know, is now writing a potentially scandalous book that Tinkler is doing his damndest to block.

When the car club collapsed in late 2009, Tinkler went to court to sue Sommers for damages, alleging he had run off with some valuable cars and some money. Sommers counter-claimed that he was owed $600,000 of the $2 million that Tinkler had invested and had been promised to him in the original agreement.

Both sides may feel they can claim victory from today’s judgment, which awarded damages of $218,500 to Sommers and another $189,000 against him. But stalemate is a better description. And they also took a shellacking from the judge, who was clearly unimpressed with much of what he heard.

For starters, Justice White found that Tinkler and Sommers had both acted “oppressively” in their management of the company. He also found Sommers was “not reliable” as a witness and said he had “serious doubts about his credibility”.

Tinkler for his part was ticked off for failing to even take the stand to pursue his case. And his honour was also clearly puzzled as to why the big man’s legal team failed to produce evidence to back up some of their key claims.

Finally, Tinkler’s attempt to win substantial recompense for Sommers allegedly misleading him into paying $2 million for a half share in the club scored him the princely sum of $10 in damages.

Maybe Nathan should stick to coal in future.

Peter Fray

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