Finance

Former owner of collapsed retailer Jones the Grocer in legal stoush with L Capital Asia in Singapore

Broede Carmody /

The former owner of collapsed gourmet retailer Jones the Grocer is suing the company’s majority shareholder L Capital Asia in Singapore’s high court for alleged “oppressive conduct”.

John Manos, who acquired Jones the Grocer in 2005, is pursuing proceedings in Singapore because he says the appointment of administrators to Jones the Grocer’s Australian companies at the end of 2014 and the appointment of a judicial manager in Singapore amounted to “oppression” by L Capital as the majority shareholder in the companies.

Manos claims the appointments will result in L Capital Asia, the private equity arm of luxury retail group Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, becoming the 100% owner of the business without any payment to him.

Under a deal proposed by administrators PKF Lawler Melbourne, a party related to L Capital will pay the creditors of the Australian Jones the Grocer creditors 100 cents in the dollar in return for full ownership of the business.

Orders were made on Thursday in the Supreme Court in Melbourne that no payment should be made for the transfer of Manos’ stake in the companies and Manos chose not to resist this application.

However, he has successfully obtained an injunction in the Singapore High Court in an attempt to prevent the transfer of the business and Manos told SmartCompany his concerns about the deal will be addressed in these proceedings.

“These matters will be addressed in the Singaporean oppression proceeding which deals with the real source of the issue,” he said in a statement issued to SmartCompany through his lawyers.

But Manos says he disputes a number of claims being made in the Supreme Court proceedings by the administrators, including that the Jones the Grocer companies were insolvent and that “the business had no value”.

Jones the Grocer and its sister companies Charlie & Co and Becasse collapsed into voluntary administration in December last year and the outlets have continued to trade since. It later emerged that a “difference in vision at board level” led to the collapse.

Manos says while he is disappointed that the company collapsed, he wants to find a solution to his differences with L Capital and maximise value for all stakeholders.

“We built a very successful business between 2005 when I bought the business and 2012, growing both within Australia and internationally – including opening stores in Asia and the Middle East and operating successful food wholesaler Senselle Foods,” he says.

“L Capital Asia’s majority investment in 2012 was intended to provide a platform for further growth but there has been a difference in vision at board level which has affected the strategic approach of the group.”

Jones the Grocer was founded in Sydney in 1996 and, together with its sister companies, employs more than 200 people in Australia.

L Capital was contacted for comment but SmartCompany did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is a former senior reporter at SmartCompany. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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