Crisis-hit CNA may face legal battle from ousted CEO as it struggles to pay suppliers

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Stationery retailer CNA is struggling to pay its suppliers.
Stationery retailer CNA is struggling to pay its suppliers.
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Crisis-hit stationery retailer CNA is struggling to pay its suppliers, as the company potentially faces a legal challenge by its controversial CEO.

Jonathan Ball Publishers, which supplies books to CNA and other retailers, confirmed to Fin24 that the company has been late with its payments. CEO Eugene Ashton said the company has been "slow paying". CNA directors previously confirmed that it is behind on payments to landlords and suppliers. The retailer has been hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, which kept customers out of the country’s big malls, and its stores.

The 125-year-old retailer has had a tumultuous few weeks. First its key shareholder Astoria Investments bowed out unexpectedly – selling its 70% stake to three CNA directors for R1.2 million (the same amount it paid for the stake).

Then tensions boiled over in the board, when the directors accused CNA CEO Benjamin Trisk of contacting business rescue practitioners without their consent. Then they announced that Trisk resigned in April, which Trisk disputed.

This week Business Day reported that Trisk, who still holds 30% of the company, intends to approach the courts to have Astoria’s sale of the 70% to the other directors be declared unlawful. He wants to be declared the sole owner instead.

Trisk confirmed these developments to Fin24, while a CNA board representative was not available for comment. A representative from Astoria declined to comment.

A recent News24 report detailed serious charges levelled at Trisk during his time at Exclusive Books, which emerged in newly released court documents. These include an unauthorised salary hike, a series of cash advances and cavalier splurges with a company credit card.

*Jonathan Ball Publishers is a division of Media24 and so is News24, which Fin24 operates as its subsidiary

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