A former receptionist who says she was betrayed by a playboy tycoon after he promised to marry her is now fighting for a slice of his multi-million pound property empire.
Gillian Turner says she sold her house and plunged her £200,000 life savings into setting up home with nightclub-loving property developer, Michael Durant, after he promised they would be ‘together forever.’
Miss Turner, who had a child with Mr Durant, 61, says her investment allowed him to free up funds to grow his business and buy a ‘valuable’ string of buy-to-let properties, stretching from the home counties to Leicester and Darlington.
The couple split in 2014 and she has now taken him to court, claiming he reneged on a promise made in the kitchen of their £1.1 million family home in Hertfordshire to ‘give her’ half of a business which she says may have been worth millions at the time.
Gillian Turner is suing her ex-boyfriend Michael Durant (right), who she says promised her half of his business during their stormy relationship. He insists he made no such promise
At Central London County Court, Judge Alan Johns QC heard Miss Turner say that she was working as a receptionist for a timber firm in 1989 when she met the businessman and the ‘stormy relationship’ between the pair began, with him making a series of late night visits to her home.
‘He would turn up at 2.30 in the early morning after the nightclubs had shut, knocking at my door and asking to be let in,’ she told the court.
‘He would stay with me a day here and a day there but it never worked. He just kept wanting to go nightclubbing every weekend.
‘The relationship was always on the rocks. He would stay for a few days and I would live in hope that it would be good this time,’ she said.
‘But as soon as another friend wanted to go on holiday or clubbing he would be off again,’ she added.
‘Then around Christmas Eve 1998 he turned up, telling me how much he loved me and how he wanted to start a relationship and how he really meant it this time,’ she said, telling the judge that the couple’s son was born soon after in 1999.
‘But the pattern didn’t change after our son was born. He was just never there. He would turn up from time to time saying he wanted to see his son,’ she said.
Then, in 2004, Miss Turner said, Mr Durant persuaded her to put up the £200,000 deposit for them to buy a family home together in Herfordshire, now worth about £1.1 million.
The legal wrangle centres on a home the former couple bought together in Hertfordshire
‘I asked him to match what I put in and he said he couldn’t because he was putting it into the business for our future.
‘He said he needed his money to buy more property and he couldn’t put any of his money into [the home] at all because he needed it to develop his business.
‘He was saying how this was a new start for us and how much he loved me.
‘He also said we are going to get married – he said this was our life, this was our future,’ she told the judge.
It was at this stage, Miss Turner said, that Mr Durant promised to give her a half share of his company – Lodge House Ltd.
‘I remember it as clear as day. The discussion took place in my kitchen
‘He kept saying it was our future and we would build up the companies together and, when we retired, he would train up our son to take over so we would have no worries.
‘He said he would give me a 50% share in his business. He said it was for our future and I would be given half the business.
‘I kept saying I’m not sure. He kept saying the same thing – this is our future, I know I’ve done wrong in the past, but you’ve got to trust me now.
‘He was so convincing and he wanted to convince me and he did convince me. I always lived in hope that we would stay together. I thought it was forever,’ she said.
The legal battle has gone all the way to the Central London County Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, where a senior judge is set to rule on Ms Turner’s claim
But Miss Turner told the judge that, after the couple split for good in 2014, he had refused to give her half of Lodge House Ltd, and that she had instead been ‘fobbed off with 50% of the shares in another company which was not as valuable.’
She told Judge Johns she was ‘not sure’ how much the business was worth in 2004, but from what Mr Durant had told her it could have been worth millions.
‘I’m not sure as to the company’s value, but he said things were doing very well, he had lots of rental property, he was buying lots of land, and building seven bungalows, and they were going to sell for £250,000 each,’ she told the judge.
‘You don’t know if its £10 or £1million, all you can tell me is that your claim is a valuable one, but you are not sure how much,’ the judge noted.
Gary Cowen, Mr Durant’s barrister, told the judge that there had been no agreement to share Lodge House Ltd with Miss Turner, and that he owed her nothing, having in effect matched her contribution to buying the family home by paying the mortgage.
‘You were putting in £200,000 and he was effectively putting in £250,000 by agreeing to pay the mortgage. That was his contribution to the purchase price,’ he said.
‘He wasn’t putting in anything. The mortgage has never been paid off,’ she retorted.
In evidence, Mr Durant said that he has forked out about £180,000 in mortgage payments on the family home, and that £165,000 remains outstanding on the property, which the former couple still own jointly.
He added that the ‘frequently stormy’ love affair between himself and Miss Turner ‘was a relationship that had its ups and downs,’ but denied making any promise to cut her in on Lodge House Ltd.
Mr Durant said he was ‘the sole breadwinner’ in the relationship and he was ‘quite sure’ that the alleged 2004 conversation in her kitchen ‘never took place.’
He added that, although Lodge House Ltd – which he then ran with a business partner – turned over £1.75 million in 2006, it had been hard hit by the financial crisis and made a loss in 2008.
It was, he told the judge, ‘simply untrue’ that he had promised to give Miss Turner half his company. ‘I never did as the discussion never arose’, he added.
Mr Durant’s accountant also gave evidence, saying that in the 20 years he had worked for the property tycoon he had never heard mentioned any plan to share the company with Miss Turner.
Judge Johns has now reserved his judgement on the case and will give his ruling at a later date.