Manitoba

Private investigator 'dressed provocatively' to serve court documents to Peter Nygard

Fashion mogul Peter Nygard has until March 31 to file evidence in a civil dispute with a Los Angeles public relations firm.

Court hears Manitoba fashion mogul missed deadlines

Peter Nygard hired Sitrick and Company in 2014 to do PR during Nygard’s legal battles with his neighbour in the Bahamas. (YouTube)

A California company suing Peter Nygard has gone to extraordinary lengths to track down the fashion mogul, even sending a private investigator who was "dressed provocatively" to his home in an effort to serve him with court documents.

In 2014, Nygard's lawyers hired Los Angeles-based Sitrick and Company for consulting and public relations services during a bitter legal battle involving Nygard and his neighbour in the Bahamas, Louis Bacon. Sitrick has represented many controversial clients, including Harvey Weinstein.

Nygard paid the PR firm some of his bills, but not all.

In October 2018, a California arbitrator ordered him to pay the company what he owes, plus interest and attorney fees. He didn't, so last July, Sitrick took the matter to the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, which ordered Nygard to pay what works out to about $1.6 million.

Nygard still hasn't paid. 

On Tuesday, Sitrick's Winnipeg lawyer told court Nygard has missed every deadline given to him. Nygard now has until March 31 to file evidence in the case.

Sitrick hires PIs  to serve court documents to Nygard

In a Jan. 3, 2020, affidavit, a process server in California described being hired by a private investigation firm to serve documents to Peter Nygard at his property in Marina Del Rey, Calif., where Nygard "liked to have parties on Sundays."

The process server Liana Borisov swore that the private investigator told her "that he had recently observed provocatively dressed women coming and going from the property, and that he also observed men who appeared to be security screening anyone who came up to the property."

Borisov said in her affidavit that she went to the Nygard property on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, at 5:53pm.

"I walked into the property by entering what appeared to be the front door. I was dressed provocatively. As I entered I passed a man who appeared to be a security guard. He looked at me and smiled but did not ask me who I was, what I was doing there, or anything else.

"After entering the property I was greeted by a woman who told me she was 'checking people in' for Peter Nygard.… The woman asked me if I was 'one of the new girls.' The woman also told me that Peter Nygard was upstairs, preparing himself, and would be down soon," the affidavit said.

"Other provocatively dressed females were waiting," said Borisov.

Borisov then told a man at the house that she was there to serve Peter Nygard with documents.

"He said he would take the papers from me for Peter Nygard. I then handed him the papers, and he escorted me to the door," Borisov said in her affidavit.

Nygard cancels appearance at meeting

Nygard was supposed to bring his financial documents to a Winnipeg law firm in December so Sitrick's lawyers could determine how to recoup the money he owes. But three days before that meeting was to happen, Nygard's lawyer said his client wouldn't be there.

A letter from Nygard's lawyer said the efforts by Borisov to serve Nygard with the documents — by leaving them with an unidentified male at the Marina Del Rey property — were not adequate.

Another private investigator, Craig Brown, describes attempts to serve legal documents to Nygard at his lake property at Falcon Lake, Man., on a Sunday in July 2019.

Brown said he arrived at the property and was informed by a personal assistant or security guard that "Peter Nygard was present on the property complex. He was busy in meetings with his executives and a new corporate president," Brown said in an affidavit.

The man told Brown "the meeting was held in a private amphitheatre or meeting room accessed by a dock located on the property," the affidavit said.

Brown explained to the man and a woman on site that he was there to serve Nygard with documents, and was told he'd be able to do that when the meeting ended at 2 p.m., according to the affidavit.

When the meeting ended, Brown said he was told Nygard would not be coming out to be served. 

The assistant then told Brown he "should leave the property and wait outside the complex as I was viewed as trespassing. I was subsequently escorted off the property," the affidavit said. 

Brown concluded his statement saying he left the documents with the man at the site, indicating he should bring them to Peter Nygard's attention.

Nygard paid PR firm as much as $975/hour US

The documents show Sitrick charged Nygard between $195 and $975 US an hour, "depending on the person performing the services," according to court documents. Nygard also agreed to pay the PR firm for travel expenses and production costs. 

Nygard would also be billed a "success fee," if Sitrick's work resulted "in significant benefits to the client beyond those we believe a normal consulting and public relations firm could achieve," said the court documents.

The documents show Sitrick billed Nygard $2.5 million US between September 2014 and March 2017. He paid about $1.9 million, leaving a $620,000 debt, and close to $44,000 in interest.

Mike Sitrick is the founder, chairman and CEO of American PR and crisis-management firm Sitrick and Company. (Sitrick and Company)

Nygard argued Sitrick "had over-billed him and he didn't get the 'bang for his buck' that he thought he should have gotten," according to an October 2018 decision by a California arbitrator.

Nygard "was slow paying the bills and many times the amounts he paid didn't match the invoices sent. He thought the bills were too high and he began having the bills reviewed by his accounting department," the decision said.

It noted that if Nygard didn't like the agreement, he had the right to cancel it upon 48 hours notice.

Although Nygard argued Sitrick exercised "bad faith" in his billings, the arbitrator found that was not the case and that the billings were in accordance with the agreement.

Nygard spokesperson Ken Frydman told CBC News he would not discuss any ongoing litigation.


Got a tip for CBC Manitoba's I-Team to investigate? Email or call the confidential tip line at 204-788-3744.

About the Author

Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca

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