Ex-chairman sues S.Africa’s troubled Steinhoff for $5bn
The former chairman of scandal-hit South African retail giant Steinhoff said Thursday he was suing the company for $4.8 billion, dealing a major blow to its efforts to survive.
Christo Wiese, a billionaire retail tycoon, is seeking to recover investments he made in Steinhoff in 2015 and 2016.
He was the biggest shareholder in the company when an accounting scandal erupted in December, since when its stock has crashed 95 percent.
Its businesses include British high-street discounter Poundland, France’s Ligue 1 sponsor Conforama and Pep Africa, which runs Africa’s largest clothing factory.
“It is in the best interest of all stakeholders in Steinhoff that a restructuring of the group be effected on fair and equitable terms,” Wiese’s investment company, Titan Group, said in a statement.
Chief executive Markus Jooste and Wiese both resigned in the wake of the crisis, with the company under investigation in Germany over a reported $7 billion hole in its accounts.
Steinhoff had been a darling of fund managers with its eclectic, sprawling, consumer-focused empire with outposts in 30 countries, but is now burdened by $12.7 billion in debt.
Wiese told a South African parliamentary hearing in January that news of the accounting scandal was “a bolt from the blue”.
His wealth has plunged from more than $5 billion to $2.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
In a statement, Steinhoff said the company would “assess the claims and determine the appropriate course of action.”