Noose tightens around Markus Jooste as banks want money back

Cape Town - Markus Jooste, the ex head of Steinhoff International Holdings [JSE:SNH] 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.

Mayfair Speculators, of which Jooste was a director until two weeks ago, owes Sanlam’s capital markets arm, Investec and Absa, a banking unit of Barclays Africa Group, more than R1.2bn, according to documents filed by Absa on December 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% 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 labour group has asked the organisers of a major Cape Town horse race to ban Jooste from entering his animals in the competition.

Mayfair, which also owns properties and a Steinhoff share portfolio held by a unit of Standard Bank Group, transferred R1.5bn 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 December 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 January 29 to file papers opposing their liquidation, she said.

Absa is owed R226m, Investec about R250m and Sanlam Capital Markets around R800m, Van Niekerk said in the papers.

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