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If you’ve got it, you hold onto it for dear life, seems to be what two of Steinhoff’s former top executives are doing. They’re obviously claiming that they jolly-well-earned the R1.1bn the company wants back. Former CEO Markus Jooste somewhat ingeniously, describes the company’s court demand for R850m from him, as “vague and embarrassing.” Being an expert number cruncher, he’s inferring their maths is way off. His former CFO, Ben la Grange, is more assertive. He’s given Steinhoff 15 days to withdraw their claim against him, failing which, (if it doesn’t stand up in court), he’s demanding legal costs. The quote attributed to La Grange has a quaint irony, implying that his antagonists believe mere allegations can force him to account. Their claim lacks ‘sufficient allegations,” he says. The hearing promises to be quite a bun-fight. Unlike Steinhoff’s shares, the demand for Cape High Court seats will be at a premium. – Chris Bateman
Steinhoff’s effort to recoup executives’ salaries faces lengthy legal battle
By Janice Kew
(Bloomberg) – Steinhoff International Holdings NV’s effort to recoup salaries from former executives appears to be heading for a lengthy legal battle as ex-Chief Financial Officer Ben la Grange joined his former boss in filing an objection.
The struggling retailer is seeking a combined R1.1bn ($72m) from La Grange and ex-Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste for failing to prevent an accounting crisis that almost destroyed the company in late 2017. Jooste quit the day financial irregularities were first reported and La Grange was suspended eight months later.
Jooste said last week that Steinhoff’s claim for more than R850m against him dating back to 2009 is “vague and embarrassing.” Now La Grange has filed his response to the claim, saying it lacks “sufficient allegations” to sustain action against him, according to documents filed to the High Court in Cape Town on Wednesday.
La Grange, who became group CFO in 2013, has given Steinhoff 15 days to withdraw the complaint and argues that if it’s determined the retailer’s claim doesn’t stand up, the company should pay the legal costs.
Steinhoff has highlighted a lengthy list of lawsuits as a significant threat to its ability to operate as a going concern. The claims against the company amount to at least €6.2bn ($6.9bn) and relate to the share-price collapse triggered by the accounting scandal, which demolished a number of peoples’ savings.
The company in April called for potential claimants to come forward and Chief Executive Officer Louis du Preez last week said Steinhoff wants to settle all demands as quickly as possible.
According to separate court papers, Steinhoff is looking to consolidate several of the claims against it, including from former Chairman Christo Wiese, who is demanding about R59bn.
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