The founder and former CEO of Ensolor, former franchise operator of well-known toy company Hamleys in South Africa, Philip Paphitis (54), took his own life three weeks ago, Netwerk24 reported on Tuesday.
He reportedly shot himself when police came to arrest him at the home of an unnamed woman in Cape Town on charges of alleged fraud.
Ensolor went into business rescue in February 2019. According to Netwerk24, the business rescue plan claims Paphitis stole more than R20m from Ensolor in December 2018 by transferring money from company accounts to his own personal account.
The business rescue practitioner, Stefan Steyn of Business Rescue Practitioners, subsequently laid fraud charges against Paphitis on behalf of Ensolor. In an emailed response to Netwerk24 in April 2019, Paphitis reportedly denied the claims and claimed to be overseas.
The South African franchise of Hamleys has since been sold to a company called Antares, a partnership between Gauteng retailers Osbro and Rand Outfitters.
In a brief response to Fin24 on Tuesday afternoon, Steyn said he confirmed the contents of the Netwerk24 report.
According to the Hamleys South Africa website, William Hamley opened his first toy store in the UK in 1760. The website lists South African stores as being in Bedford, Eastgate, the Fourways Mall, Menlyn Park, The Zone @ Rosebank, Umhlanga, Sandton and the V&A Waterfront.
In November 2019 a director at Osbro told Moneyweb the group would focus on stabilising the Hamleys business, adding that there was good potential for growth of the toy chain in SA.
Fin24 also reached out to Osbro, but comment was not immediately available. A South African Police Service spokesperson in the Western Cape was unable to comment without detailed information regarding where the incident took place.
* Compiled by Carin Smith