- Christo Wiese is suing former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste to have Lanzerac wine estate in Stellenbosch returned to him, saying a contract they signed in 2012 was based on "fraudulent misrepresentation".
- Wiese, and a number of companies he represented in negotiations, received Steinhoff shares worth around R220 million at the time, in return for the estate and all its assets.
- In court documents, Wiese states that Jooste pretended to be a mere representative for other investors, but it is now clear he was behind the deal all along.
Business magnate Christo Wiese is suing Markus Jooste, the former CEO of retailer Steinhoff, to have the historic Lanzerac wine estate outside Stellenbosch returned to him.
In 2012, Wiese sold the wine farm, which includes a 5-star hotel, to what was described as a "foreign consortium" for an undisclosed sum.
As Netwerk24 reported earlier on Tuesday, Wiese and five companies he represented in the sale of the estate are now suing Jooste and Lanzerac Estate Investments – the company that bought the estate – in the Western Cape High Court.
According to Wiese in court documents, in 2011 Jooste claimed to be representing a consortium of third-party investors via a company called Morpheus Property Investments, who wanted to buy the farm.
Wiese says that while he believed Jooste at the time, it is now clear that the former Steinhoff CEO was "negotiating in his personal capacity".
According to Wiese, he did not know at the time that Jooste had an interest in Morpheus, which was later renamed Lanzerac Estate Investments.
Jooste and Morpheus "wrongly and deliberately" failed to disclose these vital facts, state the court documents.
In addition, Wiese claims that in 2011 and 2012, when negotiations were underway, Jooste was aware that Steinhoff's financial statements were false.
In return for Lanzerac wine estate and all its assets, Wiese and the plaintiffs received about 10 million Steinhoff shares, with a combined value of around R220 million.
The shares have since fallen precipitously in value.
Wiese now wants the contract with Jooste and Morpheus annulled and the historic wine state returned, or alternatively the "fair value" of the assets he sold Morpheus.
Approached for comment last week about his interest in Lanzerac, a lawyer for Jooste said his client had no comment.
Conspicuously absent in the Wiese lawsuit are references to British businessman Malcolm King, who is the supposed owner of the estate.
In the past, Lanzerac responded to inquiries around its ownership structure by stating its ultimate owner was King via a company called Pavilion Capital Investments, registered in the British Virgin Islands.
But as Fin24 reported last week, Steinhoff itself has argued in court that Jooste, not King, owns Pavilion. This claim is included in a R1.6 billion fraud lawsuit launched by two subsidiaries of Steinhoff in an English court against King, his son Nicholas King, and their company Formal Holdings.
King's lawyer previously did not respond to a request for comment.