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Markus Jooste’s troubles deepen – Lenders sue over racehorse company non-payment

By Renee Bonorchis

(Bloomberg) – Markus Jooste, the ex head of Steinhoff International Holdings NV who quit this month amid an accounting scandal, is being sued by three South African lenders after a racehorse company he was a director of failed to meet its financial commitments.

Recently departed Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste

Mayfair Speculators Pty Ltd., of which Jooste was a director until two weeks ago, owes Sanlam Ltd.’s capital markets arm, Investec Plc and Absa, a banking unit of Barclays Africa Group Ltd., more than 1.2 billion rand ($94 million), according to documents filed by Absa on Dec. 18. in the Western Cape High Court. Both Absa and Investec have gone to court to try and recoup their money and want Mayfair to be liquidated.

The filings deepen Jooste’s predicament. Fears around Steinhoff’s accounting irregularities have cut the share price by more than 90 percent as investors balked at a lack of further information and billionaire Chairman Christo Wiese also quit. Steinhoff is being investigated by regulators in Germany, South Africa and the Netherlands and faces a spate of lawsuits in Europe.

A message left at Mayfair’s offices for director Stefan Potgieter in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, wasn’t immediately answered. Jooste didn’t immediately response to a request for comment. Steinhoff said the company can’t comment on the ex-CEO’s affairs as he’s no longer an employee.

Jooste is a known horse racing fanatic and through Mayfair owned one of the largest stable of thoroughbreds in South Africa. Mayfair sold one of its prize horses, Legal Eagle, this week, according to the Sporting Post, while a South African labor group has asked the organizers of a major Cape Town horse race to ban Jooste from entering his animals in the competition.

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Mayfair, which also owns properties and a Steinhoff share portfolio held by a unit of Standard Bank Group Ltd., transferred 1.5 billion rand in assets to its holding company in August, Absa said, just before Germany’s Manager-Magazin reported that Jooste and others were being investigated by prosecutors for possible accounting fraud. A Mayfair representative and Danie van der Merwe, recently appointed Steinhoff interim chief executive officer, approached Investec for extra capital in November, and must have known “that the collapse in the Steinhoff share price was imminent,” Absa manager Hester van Niekerk said in the papers.

Having, at least in part, pledged shares in Steinhoff as collateral for the capital from the three lenders, Mayfair’s sole active director Potgieter told Absa on Dec. 8 that his company was insolvent because of the deterioration in Steinhoff stock, van Niekerk said. Absa has moved to freeze the assets of Mayfair Speculators and its holding company, giving them until Jan. 29 to file papers opposing their liquidation, she said.

Absa is owed 226 million rand, Investec about 250 million rand and Sanlam Capital Markets around 800 million rand, van Niekerk said in the papers.

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