Legal, Management

Aconex and Baillieu family business set for court showdown

Oliver Milman /

The brother of Victoria premier Ted Baillieu is set for a Federal court showdown with software company Aconex on August 30, in what could be the final act in a long-running legal fight.

 

Ian Baillieu is battling Aconex for access to documents relating to the period of an extraordinary general meeting held in February, in which a move to remove chairman Martin Hosking was defeated.

 

Hosking subsequently departed Aconex last month, saying that he wanted to concentrate on his role as CEO of online retailer RedBubble.

 

The exit followed a bitterly controversial episode in which members of the RedBubble community complained over the listing of Hipster Hitler merchandise on the site.

 

Hosking eventually agreed to pull down the offending items, but not before a Baillieu family member wrote to the board of Aconex requesting his dismissal due to negative publicity caused by the furore.

 

Even though Hosking has left Aconex, the Baillieu family business Hawthorn Glen, which, combined with the family’s other interests in the company, has an 8% stake, is pressing ahead with its bid for company documents to be revealed.

 

It’s understood that the Baillieus believe that Aconex hasn’t properly disclosed its financial position and has underperformed as a company, requiring the installation of new directors.

 

It’s also alleged that there is a conflict of interest due to former Allens Arthur Robinson co-chairman Michael Robinson’s involvement as a director at Aconex. The law firm has previously acted in an official capacity for Aconex.

 

An August 30 date has been set in the Federal Court to decide on the merits of Hawthorn Glen’s case, potentially drawing a close to a long-running battle that began back in 2007 when a share deal went under.

 

According to The Age, James Baillieu, Ian’s son, told Hosking in an email that ”you should expect to be taken for all you are worth, including possibly into bankruptcy if needed to ferret out your harder-to-get-at assets.”

 

Responding to the report, Hosking tells StartupSmart: “James has form for making extraordinary threats and I suggest you ask him about it.”

 

“I consider the actions by the Baillieu family are value destroying for the company and all other shareholders.”

 

“Their decision to target one of Victoria’s most successful internet companies with frivolous and value destroying legal action is simply remarkable.”

 

Baillieu declined to comment on the issue when contacted. However, it’s understood that an out-of-court settlement isn’t currently being considered between the two parties.

 

Aconex told The Age: “The Baillieu family group has been a valued long-term shareholder in the company and it is unfortunate that a dispute over access to documents has resulted in them commencing court action.”

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