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Canada’s richest woman and CFL chair settle differences

By Sam Pazzano, Toronto Sun

James Lawson.

James Lawson.

Legal proceedings between Canada’s richest woman Sherry Brydson and James Lawson, chair of the Canadian Football League and head of Woodbine Entertainment, ended Monday with a sincere apology.

“Mr. Lawson has apologized unreservedly to Ms. Brydson for the circumstances that led to his departure from Westerkirk,” stated a communications release Monday.

“Mr. Lawson has also unequivocally withdrawn all prior allegations made by him involving Ms. Brydson, her family, employees and advisors in the legal proceedings and otherwise.”

The apology ended what has been a public and nasty civil dispute after Lawson was sacked, wrongfully he claimed, as boss of Westerkirk Capital Inc. in Nov. 2012 and sought $24 million in damages.

Terms of the settlement agreement were not disclosed. Neither Lawson, Brydson nor their lawyers would comment afterwards.

Brydson is worth a reported $6 billion. She’s the granddaughter of Roy Thomson and an heiress to the Thomson fortune. She fired Lawson in Nov. 2012 from the top post at investment company Westerkirk Capital Inc., where she was executive chair of the board of directors.

In 2013, Lawson sued for wrongful dismissal, claiming $24 million in damages.

In allegations from his court documents — none of which were proved in court — Lawson had asserted Brydson sacked him because he was trying to run Westerkirk professionally, and invest its money for the best possible return.

Lawson further claimed in his statement of claim that in 2006, Brydson used her bank signing authority on behalf of Westerkirk to withdrawn $106 million for personal expenses and investments without proper authorization.

Her share of equity interest in Westerkirk was subsequently lowered from 21.8% to 19.8% “to rectify this unauthorized appropriation of Westerkirk’s funds” by Brydson, the claim alleged.

Westerkirk officials told Brydson “her continued spending exceeded her personal cash means,” alleged Lawson.

He asserted his management clashed with the family’s wild spending and erratic style.

Brydson categorically denied Lawson’s allegation in court pleadings.

Lawson further alleged Brydson “demanded approximately $87 million from Westerkirk” so that she could buy a private jet in 2009. It was ultimately approved, but her equity interest in Westerkirk fell to 17.9% from 19.8%, his court filings documents claimed.

Brydson, in response, hired celebrated employment lawyer Howard Levitt, whose team investigated Lawson’s work at Westerkirk and launched a counter claim seeking $14 million in damages from Lawson.

Brydson’s lawyers alleged that Lawson exploited his Westerkirk position to enrich himself at the company’s expense, while “ridiculing various family members as irresponsible, clueless, stupid and lazy to colleagues, subordinates and third parties.”

Lawson had categorically denied those allegations in his statement of defence.

She also accused Lawson of making questionable real estate deals and downloading of hard core, offensive pornography. None of those allegations were proven in court and Lawson also denied those claims.

The counterclaim also alleges that Lawson received senior appointments to the Jockey Club and Woodbine — without the approval of Westerkirk or Brydson. He allegedly earned approximately $22,035 a month for several months in 2012 from Woodbine.

Lawson said he worked weekends and took no holidays to perform his Woodbine duties while still discharging his responsibilities at Westerkirk.

None of these allegations have been proved.

spazzano@postmedia.com