Hark! Sir Ron and his lost raiders
So long, Sir Ron. You can almost hear the sighs of relief from around the AV Jennings' boardroom table after the 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 of AV Jennings - already about half the 15 per cent it held a few years ago when the hostilities were at their peak - and exit another company, Capral, may be a signal that Brierley and Co, who have been quiet of late, are finally ready to give up the buccaneering lifestyle.
GPG waged a long war on AV Jennings and its biggest shareholder, the Singaporean group SC Global, accusing them of all sorts of terrible things.
CBD recalls an AV Jennings' shareholders' meeting at which Sir Ron's offsider Gary Weiss berated the board for what seemed like an eternity.
Three times GPG used shareholders' meetings to move resolutions to flog the company's assets and the AV Jennings' brand and distribute the proceeds to shareholders. Thrice it was defeated.
In a note to the stock exchange on Friday, GPG said selling its stakes in AV Jennings and Capral had reaped $48.4 million. The AV Jennings' stake has been bought by institutional investors, it is believed.
Tax havens scattered 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.
However, in a case that returns to the Federal Court in Sydney this week, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission alleges that the company's ownership 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 the managing director John Merity jnr, through companies registered in Hong Kong, the British Virgin Islands, Belize and Liberia.
ASIC alleges that 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 before Christmas show the men are concerned that ASIC might bring criminal proceedings against them. They want the court to stay the proceedings until ASIC undertakes not to prosecute them, or for six months.
ASIC alleges that as part of Northwest's float, 15 million shares were issued to a Virgin Islands company, Craigside, in 2004 in return for 65 per cent of another Virgin Islands company, Elsiered. Elsiered owned an Australian company, Tupperglenda, which in turn has its foot in the gold tenements Northwest has been exploring.
The Federal Court froze the Craigside parcel in December 2011.
ASIC alleges the rest of the shares supposedly controlled by Merity snr were acquired by companies in the Virgin Islands, 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 offshore entities after being served with 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.
The ASIC case relies heavily on letters and emails between the pair over a period of years.
In his defence Nedderman "denies Mr Merity ever instructed Mr Nedderman to provide services for Mr Merity".
Courts and sparks
Nedderman seems to have done well in Hong Kong, serving as a board member of the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong and marrying Clare, the Baroness Baillieu (she divorced James William Latham Baillieu in 1993; the baron is a second cousin of the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu).
The couple was involved in a stoush over the baroness's membership of the club that went all the way 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 ended in his suspension for six months.
The club said the baroness was a spouse member, and as such her membership depended on her husband being in good standing. The baroness disagreed, saying she was also an absent member (don't ask).
In November 2008, the 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 left Hong Kong in May 2010, leaving 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," the appeal court's Justice Jonathan Harris said. He disallowed Nedderman's fees.
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