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Steinhoff’s Sonn resigns

With immediate effect.
'I indicated that the company and the supervisory board would hold itself to the highest standards of governance' - Steinhoff chairperson, Heather Sonn. Image: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

Steinhoff International’s chairperson, Heather Sonn has resigned following the acknowledgement of a conflict of interest with a company she was a shareholder in that transacted with Steinhoff.

Explaining her resignation, Sonn said: “A company in which I am a shareholder, Gamiro Ventures, unwittingly completed a transaction with a company, Geros Financial Services, that now appears may have been associated with and (indirectly) funded by the company.

“In December 2017 I requested that this transaction be placed on the list for investigation by PwC when a name in the shareholding structure of the shareholder of Geros was recognised as a name that also appeared in the Viceroy Report. Unfortunately, it has taken over two years to get to a conclusion as to the nature of the relationship between the company and Geros, but there were multiple priorities for the company at the time.

“Based on what is now known to me it would have required certain disclosures which I would have made had I been aware thereof.

“At the [Steinhoff] 2018 AGM I indicated that the company and the supervisory board would hold itself to the highest standards of governance, given the heightened sensitivity specifically relating to compliance and the desire to avoid any unnecessary challenges to the Company. It is therefore incumbent upon me to apply this standard to myself.”

Sonn is a major shareholder in an investment company called Gamiro, which is a controlling shareholder in a company called Blake and Associates Holdings. Blake includes among its clients the JD Group, which is owned by Pepkor, a subsidiary of Steinhoff.

Blake is one of a panel of external debt collectors contracted at “arm’s length” by the JD Group and is subject to the same terms and conditions as other service providers.

Steinhoff said the service relationship between the JD Group and Blake predates both the inclusion of the JD Group as part of Steinhoff and the date on which Gamiro acquired Blake.

In 2017 Gamiro procured an option to acquire an interest in Blake from (a subsidiary of) Geros. Sonn served on the board of Blake from May 15, 2017 until January 17, 2018.

In September 2018 Blake bought back its shares from Geros, and Gamiro subsequently acquired a direct interest in Blake.

Recently obtained information suggests that Geros may have been associated with and indirectly funded by Gamiro, which would then make the Geros transaction a related-party transaction.

Sonn has informed Gamiro that she was not aware of this at the time.

Peter Wakkie, vice chairman of Steinhoff’s supervisory board, commented that:

“It is important to note that Ms Sonn has in no way been found to have participated in the accounting irregularities at Steinhoff. Heather’s strong and calm leadership has been invaluable during the turbulent times that the group has faced since December 2017. On behalf of the Supervisory Board and the company, we thank her for her enormous commitment and dedication to the group and wish her all the best for the future. The Supervisory Board will appoint a new chairperson shortly.”


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Like a politician

HOW ON EARTH Steinhoff financials declared itself to have total assets of 34.5 billions Euros for 2015, then 32.5 billions Euros for 2016 (audited by Deloitte), then 7 months after the announcement of fraud Steinhoff declared in an unaudited financials a total assets of 20 billions Euros for 2017 and a NAV of 9 rands, which yet again mislead a lot of investors to believe that there is still value in Steinhoff, and then 10 months after came the PwC audited one that put the assets to 16 audited billions Euros for 2017 (but now restated to 17), then 15 audited billions Euros for 2018 (but now restated to 16) and 172 audited million Euros of Equity (but now restated to below zero, so NAV is now declared to be below zero).

This seems more like a cui bono to her enemies than a coupe de grace for shareholders.

Certainly Ms. Sonn is correct regarding the application of good governance being sorely missed in the histrionics of Steinhoff.

Whether this is a cause d’effect or a mardis gras is as clear as latin, greek and french to me!

Here’s hoping the corpus delicti of Steinhoff corruption is far behind us mons amis!

This group’s mess is so convoluted that this type of thing is bound to happen. If she did not benefit, and it sounds that way, then leave her there as chair. She is up to speed, it is going to take a while to get the new chair on the same footing as her.

Haha – Is this a Quid Pro Quo?

“something for something,” – the story is always found in the telling!

She was placed on the board of Steinhoff and since 2015 to date she was not aware of her conflict of interest. Does nobody do a due diligence anymore to check for conflicts of interest. She says she is innocent but the reality is that nobody pointed out to her that she was conflicted – what have they been doing at Steinhoff – sitting on their hands and drawing emoluments?

Fingers in so many pies,its hard for such folk to keep up with all their interests.Notwithstanding an impression she made in conducting herself in the media,i still felt she was too light for the position,given the extraordinary mess that was inherited

No loss…at all!

Maybe i should buy a few shares, its only

Mrs. Son. You are the managing director of Gamiro Investment Holdings. Thus, you were not only a major shareholder. As a director, you must know what your investments are. Surely? However, not surprised – since directors these days, take no responsibility. I hope you never serve on another listed board since you do not deserve to hold a position that requires absolute diligence. Clawback your salary and bonuses.

End of comments.





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