HALIFAX - Celebrity businessman Kevin O'Leary has been ordered to pay legal fees to a philanthropic organization that is suing him over allegations he backed out of a speaking engagement and cost the group more than $25,000.
The decision, handed down Wednesday by Nova Scotia Supreme Court Judge Mona Lynch, rejects O'Leary's attempt to dismiss the suit or move it to another jurisdiction, and awarded $3,500 in costs to the Canadian Lebanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The chamber had been seeking $12,000 in costs, while O'Leary suggested legal costs of $1,000 after failing to have the suit dismissed after a half-day hearing last Dec. 7.
In her analysis, Lynch said she was made to consider facts around the wealth of O'Leary, the brash star of the ABC show "Shark Tank" and former panellist on CBC's "Dragon's Den."
"The plaintiff asks me to consider that the defendant is a wealthy man who touts himself as a leading high-tech entrepreneur and investment guru; who prefers to be called 'Mr. Wonderful'; who professes his knowledge and love of money; and who derides the death of money," her decision reads, noting that she had never watched the show "Shark Tank."
"The award of costs that is just and appropriate in the circumstances and would do justice between the parties is $3,500."
The decision is part of a broader suit against O'Leary by the chamber's Nova Scotia branch, which alleges that O'Leary reneged on a promise to be keynote speaker at the group's gala event in Halifax on May 18, 2017.
The group's statement of claim, filed last Dec. 8, contends that O'Leary committed in February 2017 to speak at the Cedar and Maple Gala fundraising dinner in Halifax.
It says the group set about booking a space and printing promotional materials for the event with O'Leary, who was in the midst of a leadership bid for the federal Conservative Party.
But, the 10-page claim states that O'Leary abruptly pulled out of the speech without warning.
Gavin Giles, who is representing the chamber in the proceedings, said O'Leary had another change of heart and agreed to speak only if a minimum of 50 members pledged to donate $1,550 to the Conservative party, "with 90 per cent of each donation being funnelled back" to O'Leary's leadership campaign.
That statement says he again withdrew when the chamber refused to agree to the conditions.
The group says it had to seek out another speaker — author David Chilton — at a cost of more than $25,000, which it is seeking to recover from O'Leary along with other damages and costs.
In his statement of defence, O'Leary's lawyer Christopher Madill denies all of the allegations against his client and says the suit should be dismissed.
It states that O'Leary agreed to give the address on Feb. 4, 2017, on the understanding that it would raise a minimum of $40,000 at $1,550 per person for his political run.
"The defendant says that he agreed to give a keynote speech in consideration for the plaintiff organizing a major fundraising event for the defendant's political campaign," the defence states.
"The plaintiff completely and unequivocally failed to honour its contractual obligations under the agreement."
Madill was not immediately available for comment.