Wiese sues Steinhoff
Resigned Steinhoff chairperson, Christo Wiese, has lodged a claim of R59-billion against Steinhoff International.
In a statement released on Thursday afternoon Wiese’s Titan Group, announced that it had served a summons on Steinhoff for the amount which related to investments made into the retailer in 2015 and 2016.
In one case, companies in the Titan Group subscribed for shares in Steinhoff following the acquisition of Wiese’s Pepkor Limited from the shareholders of Pepkor. “They now claim repayment of the subscription amount,” the statement said. “The second claim relates to the Titan Group’s capital injection into Steinhoff in 2016 to enable it to meet its debt obligations at the time of its acquisition of Mattress Firm in the US.”
Steinhoff, and Wiese’s, troubles began on December 5 last year when its chief executive – Markus Jooste – stepped down over an investigation into accounting fraud by German authorities.
The Steinhoff share drastically price plummeted, as did Wiese’s personal wealth given he was the largest shareholder in the company at the time.
Wiese’s claim follows hot on the heels of the Steinhoff annual general meeting in Amsterdam last week. The company told shareholders it had some €10.4-billion in debt. It’s market valuation on Thursday was just R9.5-billion.
Speaking to Mail & Guardian, Wiese said Steinhoff could remain sustainable through a restructuring. “It is the only way,” he said.
But, in a letter accompanying the summons, Wiese’s attorneys state that he believed it is in the best interest of all stakeholders in Steinhoff that a restructuring of the group be effected on fair and equitable terms. In the statement, Wiese said the Steinhoff group owned some excellent businesses most of which Steinhoff acquired from Pepkor in 2015. “In a restructured Steinhoff, these businesses have every potential of continuing to create value for all shareholders and claimants,” the statement quoted Wiese as saying.
The letter states although the summons would be pursued, the plaintiffs were prepared to hold further steps in abeyance by agreement if discussions with a reasonable prospect of success could be arranged forthwith.
In the statement, Wiese said his group was fully prepared to work with other claimants and shareholders to ensure that Steinhoff remains and continues as a sustainable company. This would require inter alia a restructuring of its current debt. This prospect is based on the continued excellent performance of the STAR group (containing most of the original Pepkor businesses) of which Steinhoff is currently the controlling shareholder.
“Many of the other business in the Steinhoff group offer good prospects and I strongly believe every attempt possible should be made to restructure the group as expeditiously as possible,” Wiese said in the statement.
Read Steinhoff’s statement regarding Wiese’s claim.