THE retail magnate Solomon Lew has become embroiled in a legal stoush with a fellow billionaire after their luxury superyachts collided in a Florida shipyard, causing damage estimated at $500,000.
The resulting US court case against Mr Lew and his 54-metre yacht, Maridome, is the latest legal battle involving Mr Lew, who in recent months has warred with the former spouses of his children over control of tens of millions of dollars held in a family trust, and clashed with residents at Mt Eliza, near Melbourne, over a pool built on Crown land without a permit.
Wendy McCaw, who made her fortune in mobile phones and now owns the Californian newspaper the Santa Barbara News-Press, alleges that in mid-February Maridome rammed her 57-metre motor yacht, Calixe, as it lay in its berth at the BAE Systems shipyard in Jacksonville.
Maridome was seized by authorities after Ms McCaw complained to the Florida Middle District Court that attempts to strike an amicable settlement had failed.
The yacht was released after Maridome's insurer lodged a bond of $620,000 with the court. While US court records show the case is still proceeding, a source close to Mr Lew told the Herald it had been settled by Maridome's insurer, which ran it without input from Mr Lew.
The two yachts are luxurious. The Dutch-built Calixe carries a helicopter and can sleep 10 guests while Mr Lew's Maridome also sleeps 10 and reportedly has a disco. It lacks a helipad but it reportedly once hosted a mini-submarine.
In a complaint filed with the court last month lawyers for Ms McCaw said Calixe had just completed a major service and was ''in excellent condition'' until it was hit by Maridome.
Ms McCaw, who could not be reached, alleges that about 4.15pm on February 19 the Maridome struck a steel mooring float ''instead of safely securing itself to it''. ''Maridome tore the mooring float from the seawall and carried it to Calixe,'' she alleged in the complaint.
''The Maridome violently rammed Calixe's bow area and released the steel float to strike and scrape the entire length of Calixe's starboard side.
''The Maridome remained pinned to Calixe until it was separated by tug hours later.
''The incident resulted in Maridome's captain being cited for careless operation and failing to maintain safe speed in violation of navigation rules.''
Lawyers for Mr Lew blamed the clash on the failure of a secondary set of controls on the side of the vessel, used to manoeuvre while close to port.
The yacht was released on April 27 following an emergency hearing and payment of the bond.