She’s the colourful matriarch who once had a $65m empire. But Josephine Smith in court when her lover's ex-wife successfully sued him.
She’s the colourful matriarch who once had a $65m empire. But Josephine Smith in court when her lover's ex-wife successfully sued him.

$2.3m lawyers’ picnic, $6m penthouse and missing fluffy dogs

She's the colourful matriarch who once had a $65 million empire with publican Les Young. That 13-year relationship landed Josephine Smith in court when Mr Young's ex-wife successfully sued him for $3 million and the parties went to war over a $6.75 million Pyrmont penthouse in Ms Smith's name.

Now Ms Smith has spoken for the first time about her former partner Mr Young and his bankruptcy- since discharged - and that sensational court case. She has denied two dogs named Molly and Pommy belonging to Mr Young's ex-wife Joanne Young were put down.

"I don't personally like dogs. But I would never ever hurt an animal or other living thing," Ms Smith said.

Josephine Smith who lost her St Mary’s pub and is fighting Westpac. Picture: Brett Costello
Josephine Smith who lost her St Mary’s pub and is fighting Westpac. Picture: Brett Costello

Ms Smith has come forward to tell her side of the story after launching court action against Westpac, claiming she was charged "excessive" and "exorbitant fees" and interest of $2.3 million in the mortgagee sale and receivership of her pub, ironically called The Lucky Australian.

"Yes I am flamboyant and I am eccentric but everything I have, I have worked for," Ms Smith told The Daily Telegraph.

She accepts in securing a $5.8 million loan from Westpac to buy The Lucky she should not have used as collateral the Pyrmont penthouse _ which she owned outright after Mr Young transferred his half share to her before going bankrupt. The penthouse was subject to a freezing order and using it to guarantee the Westpac loan in 2015 was a breach of court orders, triggering Westpac's decision to call in receivers at The Lucky.

"I got nothing. I just got turfed," Ms Smith said.

Joanne Young leaving Queens Square Supreme Court.
Joanne Young leaving Queens Square Supreme Court.

 

Ms Smith said despite never missing a loan repayment, the hotel was sold by receivers for just under $6 million _ more than the $5.4 she had drawn down on her Westpac loan.

Ms Smith wrote in a letter to acting Westpac CEO Peter King on 12 February _ a copy of which has been obtained by The Daily Telegraph _ that receivers Ferrier Hodgson and lawyers HWL Ebsworth had up to 13 lawyers working on the negotiations for months until the pub sold in May 2016.

"The receivers and their lawyers … managed through exorbitant fees, to drive the pub loan … to be a deficit of about $800,000, by charging between them over $1.3 million in fees with more than $630,000 going to the lawyers," Ms Smith wrote in the letter.

"At one stage the bank had 13 lawyers, several of them partners, acting on the same pub sale," Ms Smith said.

 

Ms Smith said despite never missing a loan repayment, the hotel was sold by receivers for just under $6 million. Picture: Brett Costello
Ms Smith said despite never missing a loan repayment, the hotel was sold by receivers for just under $6 million. Picture: Brett Costello

 

 

Ms Smith said she had been penalised with further fees for attempting to have the receivership investigated, and interest charges. She had in total paid $2.3 million in fees, charges and interest back to Westpac, she said.

"Westpac has applied cumulative default interest against my ledger, to turn what should have been a $300,000 credit into a $2.3 million debt."

Her claim is listed for hearing in September and Ms Smith hopes to recover at least half of the $2.3 million in charges.

In a statement a spokesman for Westpac said the bank was prevented from commenting on specifics of the case due to customer confidentiality and court proceedings.

"Westpac believes it has acted consistent with our obligations," the spokesman said.

The receiver Morgan Kelly also declined to comment due to the court proceedings.

A spokesman for HWL Ebsworth denied Ms Smith's claim that it had a conflict of interest in acting for Westpac in Ms Smith's action over allegations its own firm had charged too much.

"HWL Ebsworth's interests are owed to the Courts and to our clients, and we acted in their interests at all times," the spokesman said.

Ms Young's lawyer Greg Walsh did not respond to a request for comment.

The Pyrmont penthouse sold for $6.75 million in March 2018 and Ms Young has been paid the $3 million she was owed, Ms Smith said.

Ms Young's payout was determined after she was evicted from one of Ms Smith and Mr Young's hotels, The Wiley Park. Ms Smith said Ms Young's dogs were sent to a kennel and later rehomed in Mudgee, denying they had been put down.

 

Joanne Young with lawyer Greg Walsh.
Joanne Young with lawyer Greg Walsh.

 

She showed The Telegraph 2006 account records from Fairford Road Animal Hospital showing boarding, grooming and vaccination fees and making reference to the Mudgee move.

Ms Smith now has the lease on the Lewisham Hotel, which she has renamed the Louis Hotel, and runs a bridal design business offering traditional Samoan wedding dresses with a modern twist.


MP says milk levy continuing a ‘gimmick’

premium_icon MP says milk levy continuing a ‘gimmick’

Dairy farmers will benefit from a 10 cent per litre levy, but the ag minister says...

Government calls on public to help build a ‘Tech Hub’

premium_icon Government calls on public to help build a ‘Tech Hub’

Tender process open for businesses to help design digital platform

Community backlash results in park upgrades

premium_icon Community backlash results in park upgrades

Council upgrades will begin after an online petition demanded several parks be made...