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Turds and dumb schmucks: What happens when two billionaires go to war on Twitter

Yolanda Redrup /

Think tantrums are for toddlers? Think again. British billionaire Nathaniel Rothschild and his former business partner Aga Bakrie have ended their business relationship, sparking a fiery Twitter exchange between the pair.

Earlier this week Rothschild called Bakrie a “dumb schmuck” and thanked him for “buying back a worthless pile of turd”.

The heated comments came as a restructuring deal was closed which sees Bakrie buy Rothschild’s share of the mining company Bumi, now to be known as Asia Resource Minerals.

Bumi was formed in 2011 when Rothschild’s investment firm Vallar bought a stake in two listed Indonesian thermal coal producers known as the Bakrie Group.

However, the venture quickly fell apart when boardroom rifts, falling coal prices and investigations into alleged financial irregularities saw the value of the company plummet by more than 50% by 2012.

Late last year Rothschild announced he would support a corporate divorce and refrain from litigation, in exchange for the right to nominate an independent director post-separation.

It’s now clear the split was far from amicable, with Rothschild starting the flurry of impassioned tweets by saying he looked forward to watching Bumi “trading to zero”.

But it wasn’t a one-sided venting session – Aga Bakrie responded saying “Indonesia is an amazing investment haven make no mistake…It’s only bad when a minority try to take to take control by dirty trick”.

Rothschild then responded, saying: “What about protect minority shareholders from Bakrie? Why is investing 1.2bn into Indo bad for Indonesia you dumb schmuck?!”

Bakrie goes on to accuse Rothschild of being the dumb one of the two of them before Rothschild remarks “no family has done more to blacken Indonesia’s investment climate than yours”.

Succession Plus chief executive Craig West told SmartCompany such a public exchange is likely to further damage the value of the company.

“Because it’s in the public forum, everyone knows. Clients, employees and shareholders will have seen the exchange and they’ll all be left wondering what’s next,” he says.

“The bottom line is it will decrease the value of the company, whether it be by 2% or 50%.”

West says the key to a successful business separation is to have the process clearly documented from the outset.

“People don’t like to talk about exit clauses when they start out, but they should. You need to document it so that it can be a clean process,” he says.

“You need to have a shareholders and partnership agreement from the very start, not the week before you exit.”

West says the agreement needs to specify things like the amount of time a person needs to allow for their exit, how the exit will take place, how clients will be managed and how the company will be valued.

“If it’s a documented process from the beginning, it doesn’t remove the emotion and the upset, but it means a lot of the dispute can be managed,” he says.

“The basic reason why these disputes erupt is people are unable to agree on the value of the business, or someone tries to exit when there are no conditions in place.”

West says business separations can be an awkward thing to discuss, but it’s a necessity.

“It’s a bit like a pre-nup, when you mention it it’s like you assume you’ll get divorced. But the reality is the stats show it does happen, and it’s best to be prepared.”

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