George Gregan has testified he still believes a man who sued him over an $11 million sportswear business is a grub, a cockroach and a parasite – while pushing back against a suggestion of anti-Semitism.
The former Wallabies captain, 48, entered the witness box for cross-examination on Friday, in a case brought by PTP Fitness part-owner and former managing director Alexander Goldberg.
His attention was drawn to messages before the Federal Court in which Gregan referred to Mr Goldberg, 41, as a parasite, grub and cockroach.
“Is that a view you still hold,” Mr Goldberg’s barrister Robert Stitt QC asked.
“Yes,” Gregan replied.
Australia’s most-capped rugby union international also denied a message mentioning “blitzkrieg” – German for lightning war – was related to Mr Goldberg’s Jewish faith.
Mr Goldberg – who co-founded PTP in 2010 with his brother-in-law, former NSW Waratahs player Matthew Dixon, 52 – had claimed he was unlawfully dismissed in June 2019 by Dixon and Gregan and then shut out of his business.
Gregan and Dixon said they took appropriate action for the company’s good, filing a counter-claim alleging Mr Goldberg stole intellectual property by registering trademarks in his name and his mother’s.
The two-week hearing, which began on Tuesday, was adjourned repeatedly for settlement talks on Thursday and Friday.
Over Mr Stitt’s pleas for further negotiation time, Justice John Halley ordered it restart, allowing Gregan to give evidence for one hour.
A binding agreement involving two settlement options was eventually signed on Friday afternoon, ending the case.
Mr Goldberg had earlier been considering an offer to buy out his 40 per cent stake in PTP.
Currently, Dixon (40 per cent) and Gregan (20 per cent) own the remaining shares.
Mr Goldberg had earlier testified his relationship with Dixon, his sister’s husband, was “toxic” in 2018 and 2019.
He became fearful he was being pushed out by the former footballers and registered some sports products intellectual property into his mother’s name.
“I wanted to make sure I wasn’t kicked out of something I’d put 10 years of blood, sweat and tears into,” he said.
Gregan testified he found out about the registrations in late 2018 and set about a strategy to remove Mr Goldberg due to “his behaviour”.
PTP was in the midst of expanding from being a start-up to an established firm, he said.
Gregan was also aggrieved by Mr Goldberg’s want to remove the former Wallaby’s voting rights and a reference to intellectual property in the shareholders’ agreement.
“He could never be outvoted so yes we were shocked,” he said.
A month before Mr Goldberg’s sacking, Gregan texted Dixon: “When we strike, it’s going to be an avalanche, a blitzkrieg.”
“It’s a war technique blitzkrieg, which was used by the German army and it had nothing to do with Alex being Jewish,” the former footballer said.
He denied he intended to remove Mr Goldberg as director or owner despite a text referencing the directorship and stating “when the time is right we will drop the hammer”.
“But it wasn’t just a ‘company first’ attitude – you had a personal vendetta against Mr Goldberg, didn’t you?” Mr Stitt asked.
“No,” Gregan replied.
Gregan said he’d done more than being just a brand ambassador in the years before Mr Goldberg’s sacking – attending trade shows and exploring his network of sports stars.
Cricketer Brett Lee, surfer Joel Parkinson and tennis champion Pat Rafter were among those to test the products, he said.
“They were endorsements we didn’t have to pay for,” he said.
Gregan’s evidence-in-chief was delivered via affidavit.