Tiny Rowland, deposed kingpin of Lonrho, began to lay plans yesterday to challenge Dieter ock, his nemesis at the international trading conglomerate.
Mr Rowland, who was dismissed on Thursday as a director of the company which he controlled for more than 30 years, said he would consider increasing his 6 per cent stake in Lonrho to above the 10 per cent level that would allow him to call extraordinary meetings. He added that writs against Mr ock and Lonrho would be issued on Monday, claiming breach of contract.
He gave his version of the dramatic board meeting that ousted him on Thursday, and claimed he was sacked because he demanded information from Mr ock and Lonrho's finance director, Richard Whitten, about the 1993 sale of the group's German property arm, Gewog.
Mr ock and Lonrho are suing the German magazine, Focus, and the Mail on Sunday over allegations that Mr ock benefited personally from the sale of Gewog.
Mr Rowland said he was approached by a reporter from Focus who asked to see him about the sale: "As it happened I was due in Munich a fortnight later, so I agreed to see him. When he told me that Mr ock had an interest in the deal, I couldn't believe it. It was the first I knew of it."
He had asked the finance director, Mr Whitten, for the file on the transaction after the Mail on Sunday article appeared.
"He refused to give it to me, so I then sent a letter to Mr ock, drafted by a QC, demanding to see the file in my capacity as a director of the company. He received it the day before the board meeting and went mad. One and a half hours into the board meeting, facing him across the table, I asked him for the file. At that point Sir John Leahy, the chairman, produced a letter with nine signatures cancelling my position."
Lonrho says that the German property deal was entirely above board and did not benefit Mr ock personally. It is understood that Mr ock supplied the buyer with a nominee company for tax purposes.
Under German tax law, a property owner who buys 100 per cent of another property portfolio above a certain size must revalue all his properties, which could lead to a sizeable tax bill. To avoid this situation, 0.5 per cent of Gewog was sold to Mr ock's nominee company and later passed to the son of the puchaser, Klaus Hahn. The nominee company then reverted to Mr ock's ownership.
Lonrho said that Sir John Leahy and Mr ock had commissioned a report on the sale from the company's auditors, which cleared the deal.
Mr Rowland said that he had almost £300m cash on deposit and was looking at a number of business ventures, although his main interest was to protect his Lonrho holding.Reuse content