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Lawyer says potential purchaser of Canucks made up his testimony

NHL.com @NHL

VANCOUVER - A lawyer representing the owner of the Vancouver Canucks says one of the two other men battling for control of the team deserves a Pulitzer Prize for his fictitious testimony.

Howard Shapray said Wednesday that Tom Gaglardi's evidence last May was scripted to malign his client's reputation.

In May, Gaglardi testified that Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini attended a meeting on Nov. 13, 2003, to discuss the supposed terms of a partnership to buy the NHL franchise.

But Shapray said Gaglardi delivered "a fictitious rendition of non-existent conversations" with Aquilini, who was aboard a plane to Victoria when the alleged meeting took place.

"Mr. Gaglardi gave an elaborately detailed and utterly fictitious recollection of the contents of the meeting," Shapray told the B.C. Supreme Court civil trial.

Gaglardi and Ryan Beedie are suing Aquilini because they say he used inside information from a partnership with them to secretly buy the Canucks while they were also negotiating for the team.

Court has heard that in early November 2003, the three millionaires gathered at a nightclub to discuss the possibility of buying the Canucks.

During his testimony, Gaglardi said they met again a few days later to flesh out the details of the partnership - something Shapray has argued did not even exist in the formal sense when Aquilini pulled out in March 2004.

Shapray said Gaglardi's memory on the witness stand about a meeting that allegedly happened three years earlier was so crystal clear that he recalled several details including an elaborate prelude, Aquilini's late arrival and his precise words.

But other people who had knowledge of the meeting were removed from the plaintiffs' witness list at the last minute, Shapray said, leading any reasonable person to believe Gaglardi's testimony was false and misleading.

Shapray also said Gaglardi later decided the meeting could have occurred at 9 a.m., not 11 a.m., when Aquilini was on the plane, although phone records show his client was on the phone several times when the alleged meeting was going on.

"The invention of the plaintiff's recollection is another attempt to cling to the wreckage of a decimated case," Shapray said.

Gaglardi and Beedie say that as a partner, Aquilini had a fiduciary duty to inform them that he was negotiating to buy the Canucks from Seattle billionaire John McCaw at the same time they were trying to strike a deal for the hockey team.

But Shapray said that while the three millionaires were clearly intending to form a limited partnership, there was no written agreement.

He said the legal and business communities would be shocked to learn that someone who withdraws from a group that basically got together "to kick the tires" of some commercial venture would end up owing fiduciary duties to the others.

"There is not a shred or scintilla of evidence that the parties agreed to remain bound to each other until the bitter end," Shapray said.

The upshot is that there was an implication that Aquilini couldn't compete against the others if the group split up while they were not similarly disqualified from competing against him, he said.

Shapray has said McCaw rejected Gaglardi's offer for the Canucks on Oct. 29, 2004, several days before Aquilini began negotiations.

Aquilini purchased half the team in November 2004 and later bought the rest of the club.

Gaglardi and Beedie say they want the court to hold the Canucks in trust for them or award them damages.

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