Former CEO of Steinhoff Markus Jooste answers questions from the finance paliamentary commitee in Cape Town. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER / SUNDAY TIMES
Former CEO of Steinhoff Markus Jooste answers questions from the finance paliamentary commitee in Cape Town. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER / SUNDAY TIMES

Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste sees the retailer’s claim for more than R850m against him as “vague and embarrassing”.

The owner of Poundland in the UK and Pep stores throughout Africa said in June that it would look to claw back base salaries, bonuses and other incentives paid to Jooste since 2009, because of his role in the accounting crisis that triggered the retailer’s near-collapse.

Jooste’s planned exception to Steinhoff’s claim includes the assertion that the company failed to provide enough detail of his employment contract in the lawsuit, including whether certain elements were made orally or in writing, according to legal papers filed to the high court in Cape Town.

The filing gives Steinhoff two weeks to “remove the identified causes of complaint”.

Steinhoff’s shares have collapsed 97% since the crisis erupted in late 2017 and the company is itself facing a string of lawsuits, which CEO Louis du Preez said, on Tuesday, the company would prefer to settle as quickly as possible. Steinhoff has claimed that payments to Jooste were dependent on “the sound and successful financial performance” of the retailer and, had the company been aware of all the facts, the remuneration committee would not have recommended any payment.

Jooste is arguing that these were not “express terms” of his employment contract. Moreover, he has objected to Steinhoff not explaining how any fictitious deals or accounting irregularities resulted in a loss to the company, rather than its shareholders. In at least one lawsuit against the company where Steinhoff added Jooste as a third party, the former CEO has argued that he needs access to a full forensic report compiled by PwC. Steinhoff, who commissioned the report, has refused, according to separate court papers.

Du Preez said on Tuesday that the report needed to be kept confidential for Steinhoff’s own legal cases. Late on Tuesday, Steinhoff got some space to focus on the lawsuits as it reached an agreement with creditors where it doesn’t have to pay principal and interest on about €9bn (about R152bn) of debt until December 2021.

Bloomberg 


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