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Durban - The man in charge of several “business rescues” in South Africa - including construction giant Stedone and the failed Blythdale Coastal Resort project - is apparently in financial trouble and has been provisionally sequestrated.
But Karl Gribnitz, who has several degrees and directorships of businesses, says he does not owe anybody any money and he is preparing an urgent court application to set aside the order granted against him in the North Gauteng (Pretoria) High Court last week.
Gribnitz was taken to court by Afgri Operations, a company specialising in loans to the agricultural sector and which claims Gribnitz owes it at least R9-million.
In court papers, Ernst Janse van Rensburg, the general manager of collections, says on top of this amount, Gribnitz also has several other HP agreements in which he owes about R4m and an unpaid “monthly account” of R17m.
The loans were given to finance his farming activities which have apparently failed. According to the court papers, he attempted to sell the farm but the sale collapsed.
“It appears that he has a serious cash flow problem and cannot meet his debts,” Janse van Rensburg said.
He said Gribnitz had raised only “technical defences” to the debt - including that it was lent recklessly and Afgri knew of his “precarious financial situation” - but does not deny receiving or owing the money
A provisional order was granted giving Gribnitz until December 19 to oppose the order being made final.
But Gribnitz told The Mercury that the company had first taken court action against him about 18 months ago and he had opposed it. But the matter had then been placed on the unopposed roll.
He sent an advocate to court to argue that it was opposed but the judge had granted the order anyway.
“I have been found guilty without being afforded an opportunity to put my version across. My constitutional right was taken away. This has put me in a most uncomfortable position and I am bringing an application to have it set aside,” he said.
Gribnitz is considered an “expert” on business rescue, but his dealings have proved controversial and have put him at odds with creditors in some of the ailing firms with which he is involved.
Recently, The Mercury reported that the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) - the biggest creditor of Stedone, being owed R240m - had launched court proceedings accusing Gribnitz of creating a “contrived and unsustainable foundation” for the rescue plan which included “exorbitant and quite extraordinary” remuneration for himself.
Gribnitz is opposing the application and the matter has been set down for argument in November.
He told The Mercury that the fees complained of were not just for himself but his team of professionals.
He has also been named as the man who is going to take control of Blythedale Coastal Resorts.
It is not known how many people invested in the project which at the launch was said to be a R10-billion development on the North Coast.
It has been stalled because of a court battle between land claimants and the developer Mark Taylor, with the claimants wanting to scupper the deal he signed with them and the government.
Gribnitz is also cited in court papers as the business rescue practitioner of Dowmont Snacks in which he is accused by major creditor DH Brothers Industries Pty Ltd of ignoring the wishes of creditors and pushing through his proposed “rescue plan” which, it is alleged, would deprive creditors of their right to sue directors and would have tax implications.
Judge Trevor Gorven is expected to hand down judgment in this case on Monday.
An attorney, who did not wish to be named, said he believed there was room for abuse in the business rescue process because it was driven by directors of a company, who had their own agendas.