CNA in crisis as board confronts controversial CEO

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Benjamin Trisk, the part-owner of CNA.
Benjamin Trisk, the part-owner of CNA.
Exclusive Books
  • CNA's board is accusing its CEO of unilaterally consulting with business rescue practitioners 
  • Benjamin Trisk, who faced financial misconduct allegations during his time at Exclusive Books, denied this, saying it was discussed by the board.
  • CNA has fallen behind on payments to its landlords and suppliers.
  • Meanwhile, its biggest shareholder sold its stake to management this week.

After only a year under new ownership, stationery retailer CNA is facing a financial crisis, with its board threatening legal action against its controversial CEO.

The board is accusing Benjamin Trisk of attempting to put the company in business rescue without consulting them.

Trisk told Fin24 that this is "complete rubbish" and that the board discussed business rescue during a meeting on 30 March.

In response, CNA director Rob Shortt said Trisk himself is talking "complete rubbish". "He didn’t consult us."

Shortt says Trisk submitted documents that claimed that the board agreed to business rescue during a meeting on 11 May. But Shortt says this is false.

"We are obviously getting legal advice."

Asked if the board already fired Trisk, Shortt said he didn't want to comment. 

Both Shortt and Trisk confirmed a Business Day report that CNA has fallen behind on payments to landlords and suppliers

Trisk said consulting business rescue practitioners was "absolutely the right to do" to protect creditors and jobs.

Business rescue means that a company gets breathing space from debt and other repayments, while business rescue practitioners take full management control. They then decide whether the business can be restructured to survive. Failing that, they would aim to achieve a better return for the company's creditors and shareholders than an immediate liquidation of the company would.

Astoria sells stake

As an all-out fight broke out between the board and its CEO, the company's biggest shareholder bailed out this week.

Investment company Astoria announced on Thursday that it sold its stake in CNA Holdings to management. 

Just over a year ago, Astoria purchased 70% of CNA for R1.2 million from Edcon. Astoria said it received the same amount back for its stake. 

Chairperson of RECM and Calibre Limited, Piet Viljoen, who is a director of Astoria, told Fin24 the reason for the sale "boils down to the fact that we saw that we were not able to add any value and the management team thought they could. So we came to an amicable agreement."

Trisk, the former CEO of Exclusive Books, still holds 30% of CNA, he told Fin24 on Friday.

News24 recently reported on court documents that detailed serious charges levelled at Trisk during his time at Exclusive Books.

These include an unauthorised salary hike, a series of cash advances and cavalier splurges with a company credit card.

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