A court showdown between software company Aconex and disgruntled shareholders led by the Baillieu family has been averted by a last ditch settlement between the two parties.
The two sides were due to face off in Melbourne’s federal court yesterday, only for a late agreement giving Hawthorn Glen access to crucial documents resulting in the cancellation of the hearing.
The court was to make a verdict on a long-running legal spat between Hawthorn Glen, run by the family of Victorian premier Ted Baillieu, and Aconex. Hawthorn Glen, along with other family interests in the company, owns an 8% stake in Aconex.
Hawthorn Glen, headed by Baillieu’s brother Ian, has persistently demanded to see Aconex documents relating to an extraordinary general meeting held in February, in which a move to replace chairman Martin Hosking was defeated.
Hosking subsequently departed Aconex last June, 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.
It’s understood that Hawthorn Glen is unhappy over the performance of Aconex, as well as its corporate governance, especially in relation to conflict of interest issues.
As well as Hosking’s involvement, Hawthorn Glen is said to be concerned over the involvement of former Allens Arthur Robinson co-chairman Michael Robinson’s as a director at Aconex. The law firm has previously acted in an official capacity for the software company.
Faced with the prospect of opening up its books to the courts or giving Hawthorn Glen access to previously-guarded documents, Aconex chose the latter on the day of the scheduled court appearance.
Speaking to StartupSmart, Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper says: “Hawthorn Glen has been a valued long-term shareholder in the company and we are pleased that were able to come to a mutually acceptable arrangement over their access to certain company documents.”
Jasper refused to be drawn on whether Aconex had underperformed and also declined to comment on Hosking’s previous claim to StartupSmart that the Baillieus were engaged in “frivolous and value destroying legal action” against the company.
A spokesperson on behalf of the Baillieu family shareholders says: “We are pleased the matter has been resolved by agreement that Aconex provide access to the documents requested.”
“We look forward to continuing friendly discussions with Aconex’s new chairman and resolving any remaining differences in a constructive and cooperative way.”
“As long-term substantial investors in the company our aim has been, and remains, that Aconex improve its performance, transparency and governance for the benefit of all shareholders.”