In In the Courts by Clyde Mooney

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Almost three years after fighting eviction from Coogee Pavilion for paying rent two days late, Justin Hemmes is suing his lawyers over the deal that nearly made it possible.

The celebrated pub baron signed on to purchase the dilapidated multi-level hotel (then called Coogee Palace) in March 2014, swiftly renovating the tired ground level, which reopened in July, and opening the rooftop in December, representing a $12 million investment.

The original deal was a two-year ‘put and call’ that saw Hemmes put down a $5 million deposit and agree to pay $1.5 million in annual rent, before paying the balance of $32 million for the title. The vendor was former Rothschild CEO David Kingston.

In January 2015, the monthly rent payment fell due on a Saturday, and was paid on the Monday. But soon after, a Notice of eviction for the late payment was received, and later a second Notice for “unauthorised works”.

Justin Hemmes at Coogee Pavilion

Hemmes immediately lodged a caveat on the title, registering “equitable interest” on his to-date $17 million input, and called for witnesses on the two launch nights to corroborate Kingston was present at both, and pleased with the work.

It was noted the late payment would have amounted to $85.74 in interest.

In July, the Supreme Court heard the two parties had reached an “in-principle agreement” and that Hemmes would not be evicted and the sale would continue.

The in-principle agreement saw Hemmes pay Kingston’s legal costs of $600,000 and his own of $1.2 million.

Law firm Lands Legal reportedly acted for both Kingston as the vendor, and Hemmes as the purchaser.

Now, in a statement of claim alleging professional negligence by his long-time solicitor Andrew Wennerbom, principle of Lands Legal, Hemmes says the sale terms were favourable to Kingston because they allowed the possibility of terminating the transaction “and thus have the benefit of any deposit paid and improvements to the property”.

The SMH reports Wennerbom denies any negligence, offering that Hemmes knew the rent had to be paid on the correct date, and written consent should have been obtained from Kingston for the renovations.

Merivale officially declined to comment on the active lawsuit.

Coogee Pavilion rooftop