Steinhoff International chairwoman, Heather Sonn, has resigned today amid a conflict of interest.  
File photo: Steinhoff website
Steinhoff International chairwoman, Heather Sonn, has resigned today amid a conflict of interest. File photo: Steinhoff website

Steinhoff International chairwoman, Heather Sonn, has resigned

By Sandile Mchunu Time of article published May 18, 2020

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DURBAN - Steinhoff International chairwoman, Heather Sonn, has resigned today amid a conflict of interest as a shareholder in a company that has done business with the troubled retailer, through its subsidiary Pepkor Holdings. 

Sonn said a company in which she is 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 Steinhoff . 

“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 more than 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,” Sonn said.

Viceroy released a damning report about the scandal at Steinhoff which resulted in the group losing more than R200 billion in market capitalisation and a 95 percent decline in its share price. 

Steinhoff said Sonn has tendered her resignation from all functions at the Steinhoff Group, and specifically as the chairwoman of both the company and Steinhoff Investment Holdings, as of today. 

Sonn is a major shareholder in an investment company Gamiro, which is a controlling shareholder in Blake and Associates Holdings. 

Blake has clients such as the JD Group, which is owned by Pepkor Holdings, a subsidiary of Steinhoff International.

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.

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

Steinhoff said in 2017 Gamiro procured an option to acquire an interest in Blake from a subsidiary of Geros and 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.

The group added that the recently obtained information suggests that Geros may have been associated with and indirectly funded by Steinhoff, which would then make the Geros transaction a related party transaction.

“Ms. Sonn has informed the company that she was not aware of this at the time,” the group said. 

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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