As the forensic team at PwC scours millions of documents in its attempt to figure out what happened at Steinhoff, regulators may have to go back to 2003 to scrutinise what happened in the Steinhoff-facilitated management buyout of Australian-listed Freedom Furniture. This follows a joint investigation by the Financial Mail and the Australian Financial Review. The reason? The transaction could yet become the first evidence of a "front running" model that has spanned the globe. Steinhoff continued to expand internationally following its listing on the JSE in 1998 when it combined the manufacturing assets of the Steinhoff group with those of GommaGomma Holdings. In July 2001, Steinhoff formed a strategic alliance with Australian lifestyle and homeware retailer Freedom Group in which the two companies merged their manufacturing operations into a new company, Freedom Furniture, which would be 74% controlled by Steinhoff. As part of the same transaction and, rather curiously, Freedom sold...

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