The Vancouver Island couple who built Sooke Harbour House into one of Canada’s most renowned tourist destinations has won a resounding victory in their battle to wrest control of their beloved hotel away from a pair of purported financiers.
In a blistering decision Tuesday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge awarded Frederique and Sinclair Philip — now in their 70s — more than $4 million for the “six-year odyssey of lies, excuses, threats, intimidation and bullying” they suffered at the hands of Timothy Durkin and his partner Roger Gregory.
In a 94-page ruling, Justice Bill Basran concluded the Philips’ “reasonable expectation of a comfortable and well-deserved retirement has been effectively stolen from them because they unknowingly put their future in the hands of these two fundamentally dishonest individuals.”
The judge reserved especially harsh words for Durkin, who — according to the judgment — swore a false affidavit in order to obtain an injunction that kept the Philips away from the hotel while he fought them in court.
“His view of the truth is whatever will serve his interests in the moment. He is entirely unencumbered by ordinary norms of morality, integrity and decency. He is a garden-variety bully who preys upon those whom he perceives to be weaker than himself and vulnerable to his mistruths and manipulation,” Basran wrote.
“Unfortunately for the Philips, they were victims of Mr. Durkin’s countless lies and deceptions.”
The toast of the culinary world
The decision marks the latest turn in a saga that has been ongoing since 2014, when the Philips — burdened by debt that started with the global financial crisis — first met Durkin and Gregory.
In the 35 years prior, they had turned the six-room bed and breakfast they purchased in 1979 into a culinary sensation beloved by wine and food critics, frequented by celebrities and world leaders and honoured by Canada’s Governor General.
The Philips reached a share purchase agreement in 2014 that would have seen Durkin and Gregory purchase their interest in the hotel for $6 million.
The Philips believed they were going to get $2 million, and according to the judgment, Durkin assured them that his company — SHH Holdings — had the resources to cover the existing mortgage and interest owed to the Business Development Bank of Canada.
In fact, Basran found that despite Durkin and Gregory’s grand promises of a “syndicate” or “posse” of investors from Tehran to Zurich — SHH Holdings never raised more than $54,000.
‘Lies, excuses and misrepresentations’
The judge said Durkin took control of hotel operations and kept stringing the Philips along, until they ultimately signed a settlement agreement in which Durkin promised his company would pay off the mortgage and give the Phillips $1.5 million.
But that never happened, and the Phillips attempted to take control of the hotel in