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Former Noble CEO Alireza sues founder Elman for US$58m

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - 14:00

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Yusuf Alireza, who left the company in May 2016, filed his suit against Mr Elman in the High Court of Hong Kong alleging breaches of contract, according to a writ of summons. Mr Alireza is seeking at least HK$450 million (S$79.956 million) in shares.

[LONDON] The former chief executive officer of Noble Group Ltd has filed a lawsuit against founder Richard Elman claiming that he's owed stock in the embattled commodity trader.

Yusuf Alireza, who left the company in May 2016, filed his suit against Mr Elman in the High Court of Hong Kong alleging breaches of contract, according to a writ of summons. Mr Alireza is seeking at least HK$450 million (S$79.956 million) in shares.

Mr Elman, who stepped down as chairman of the company in May, declined to comment. Mr Alireza couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Once Asia's largest commodity trader, Noble Group is beset by a crisis that stretches back more than two years, which has left the Hong Kong-based firm grappling with losses, a collapse in its securities, downgrades to its credit rating and uncertainty over its ability to fund its debt.

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Mr Alireza, who was appointed CEO in 2012, oversaw the sale of assets, including Noble's agricultural unit to China's Cofco Corp, to raise funds.

According to the writ, Mr Alireza had a deal to receive about 63.9 million fully-paid shares in Noble for starting work at the company, and an additional 52.3 million shares when his employment was terminated. He claims those shares haven't been transferred.

The former Goldman Sachs Group Inc executive approached Mr Elman in early May last year and raised "concerns over the future viability" of Noble Group and made various recommendations, according to the writ.

That same month, Mr Elman gave Mr Alireza six months' notice of termination, citing irreconcilable differences on how the company should be run in future, the writ says.

The writ also names Fleet Overseas (New Zealand) Ltd as a defendant. Bill Patterson, a partner at Patterson Hopkins law firm in Parnell, Auckland, which administers Fleet Overseas, declined to comment. Noble isn't part of the suit.

The lawsuit is a second filed by a former CEO of Noble Group. Ricardo Leiman, who left in 2011 and went on to found a rival trading house now called Engelhart Commodities, sued Noble in Singapore claiming shares and a bonus were wrongfully withheld.

Noble Group has said the compensation shouldn't be paid because Mr Leiman had been in discussions to set up a rival business while still on a Noble contract.

Noble Group's stock in Singapore lost 1.5 per cent as of 1.14pm. The shares have collapsed 82 per cent over the past year.

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