AV Jennings raider cuts ties that bind

AV Jennings raider cuts ties that bind

SO LONG, Sir Ron. You can almost hear the sighs of relief around the AV Jennings boardroom table after veteran corporate raider Sir Ron Brierley's Guinness Peat Group quietly dumped its stock in the housing developer on Friday.

GPG's move to sell its 7.7 per cent - already down from the 15 per cent it held a few years back when hostilities were at their peak - and exit another company, Capral, may be a signal that Brierley and Co, which has been quiet of late, is finally ready to give up the buccaneering lifestyle.

GPG waged a long war on AV Jennings and its biggest shareholder, Singaporean group SC Global, accusing them of terrible things.

CBD remembers attending an AV Jennings shareholder meeting at an outer eastern Melbourne hotel, at which Sir Ron's offsider, the ferociously afroed Gary Weiss, rose to berate the board for what seemed like an eternity.

Three times GPG used shareholder meetings to move resolutions to flog off the company's assets and the storied AV Jennings brand and distribute the proceeds to shareholders.

Three times it was defeated.

In a note to the exchange on Friday, GPG said selling its stakes in AV Jennings and aluminium products group Capral, where it owned nearly half the company, reaped it $48.4 million.

It is believed institutional investors picked up the AV Jennings stake.

Owning up

TAX havens flung across the globe. A father's secret shareholding in the company run by his son. The fear of criminal prosecution.

It's all allegedly going on around Northwest Resources, which from the outside looks like a perfectly ordinary gold explorer.

But in a case that returns to the Federal Court in Sydney this week, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission alleges the ownership of the company has been anything but regular.

It alleges that immediately after Northwest floated in 2004, 57.5 per cent of the company was secretly owned by John Merity snr, the father of managing director John Merity jnr, through companies registered in Hong Kong, the British Virgin Islands, Belize and Liberia.

ASIC alleges Merity snr controlled the shares with the help of a Hong Kong-based accountant, Tony Nedderman, who ran a company called Taxation and Financial Services, or TFS.

Documents filed with the Federal Court by Merity snr and Nedderman just before Christmas show the pair are concerned that ASIC might bring criminal proceedings against them. They've asked the court to stay the proceedings until ASIC undertakes not to prosecute, or for six months.

ASIC alleges that as part of Northwest's float, 15 million shares were issued to BVI company Craigside in 2004 in return for 65 per cent of another BVI company, Elsiered.

Elsiered owned an Australian company, Tupperglenda, which in turn has its foot on the gold tenements Northwest has been exploring.

The Craigside parcel was frozen by the Federal Court in December 2011.

ASIC alleges the rest of the shares supposedly controlled by Merity snr were acquired by companies in the BVI, Belize and Liberia by subscribing to Northwest's prospectus.

It alleges that on four occasions Merity snr has failed to own up to owning various parcels of shares held by the offshore entities after being hit by an ASIC tracing notice.

Nedderman and Merity snr are alleged to have told ASIC that various parcels were Nedderman's, or someone else's, or that they did not know to whom the shares belonged.

ASIC's case relies heavily on letters and emails between the pair over a period of years.

But in his defence Nedderman "denies Mr Merity ever instructed Mr Nedderman to provide services for Mr Merity".

Sudden departure

NEDDERMAN seems to have done well in Hong Kong, serving as a board member of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club and marrying Clare, the Baroness Baillieu (she divorced the Baron, Premier Ted Baillieu's second cousin, James William Latham Baillieu, in 1993).

The couple were involved in a stoush over the baroness's membership of the Foreign Correspondents' Club that reached up to the Hong Kong Court of Appeal.

This followed what is described in court papers as an "altercation" between Nedderman and other board members in March 2005 that saw him suspended for six months.

The club said the baroness was a spouse member, so her membership depended on her hubby being in good standing. The baroness disagreed, saying she was also an absent member (don't ask).

Sadly, in November 2008, deputy High Court judge Simon Mayo found against her, saying that "she exaggerated her evidence and was not a frank and honest witness".

Nedderman suddenly up and left the Chinese Special Administrative Region in May 2010. He left behind hundreds of failed companies of which he had been appointed liquidator, forcing the courts to appoint new caretakers.

"Mr Nedderman appears to have recently left Hong Kong and has not put in place any arrangements to allow his company to continue to operate and for his co-liquidators to properly carry out their office," Justice Jonathan Harris said.

He disallowed Nedderman's fees.

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