Barnes goes after Trustee Partners for damages

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By David Chaplin

The Andrew Barnes-owned Bath Street Capital (BSC) is seeking about $20 million in damages from the Australian group that left it at the altar after making a reported $200 million marriage proposal, according to industry sources.

In June Sargon Capital, which owns Australian firm Trustee Partners, abandoned its bid for BSC-owned Complectus just as final settlement was due.

At the time BSC claimed Sargon “did not meet its obligations under the Sale and Purchase Agreement, while BSC Limited complied with all its obligations”.

Barnes has rolled-up a number of NZ trustee companies, including NZ Guardian Trust and Perpetual, under the Complectus banner since launching in 2014. Guardian is supervisor of 10 KiwiSaver schemes, including the $10 billion plus ANZ funds as well as AMP, BNZ and Westpac.

Sargon, co-founded by Australian technology entrepreneurs Phillip Kingston and Aron D’Souza, have offered no official reason for cancelling the Complectus purchase. Sources close to Trustee Partners previously indicated last-minute disputes over ‘fixtures and fittings’ may have scuppered the deal – a claim viewed skeptically this side of the Tasman.

While Sargon was rumoured last week to be considering legal action, BSC was first to call in the lawyers.

A BSC spokesperson said: “We can confirm that BSC has brought proceedings against Sargon Capital, we will make no further comment.”

It is understood BSC has retained an earlier deposit made by Sargon during the sale process.

Late in August, NZ private equity firm Direct Capital took out an option to buy half of Complectus under a new ‘refinancing agreement’. Direct Capital directors Ross George and Gavin Lonergan joined the Complectus board on August 31.

Barnes returned to day-to-day duties as head of Complectus this July, ousting incumbent, Grant Kemble, who joined the firm in 2015 from legal outfit Russell McVeagh.

Sargon, meanwhile, established a beach-head in NZ this August after purchasing the New Zealand Trust Company and its parent Hong Kong Trust Company.

The Australian group also hired Andrew Peterson to the newly-created role of general manager in August. Peterson was previously managing director of advisory firm, Required Financial Services, after stints as Antares Asset Management head of retail sales, IOOF national alliance manager and general manager distribution for the now-defunct Timbercorp.

– Investment News NZ

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