Judge re­jects Per­pet­ual’s ‘ op­pres­sive’ al­le­ga­tion

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - CHRIS­TIAN ED­WARDS

SOUL Pat­tin­son and Brick­works have been awarded costs af­ter the Fed­eral Court dis­missed in­sti­tu­tional fund man­ager Per­pet­ual’s long- run­ning le­gal bid to prove the con­glom­er­ate’s cross- owned struc­ture lost value and be­haved op­pres­sively.

In re­ject­ing Per­pet­ual’s decade- long claim that Mill­ner fam­ily com­pa­nies Wash­ing­ton H. Soul Pat­tin­son and Brick­works en­gaged in op­pres­sive con­duct and re­duced value for share­hold­ers, through a cross- share­hold­ing struc­ture, Jus­tice Jayne Jagot found that “rea­son­able di­rec­tors” would not con­sider the cross- share­hold­ing to be “un­fair or op­pres­sive”.

“Ac­cord­ingly, Per­pet­ual’s claim must be re­jected,” Jus­tice Jagot wrote in her judg­ment, re­leased yes­ter­day. Per­pet­ual has been or­dered to pay costs.

WHSP man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Todd Bar­low called the epic le­gal bid by Per­pet­ual, which owns 6.3 per cent of Brick­works, to la­bel 40 years of Soul Pat­tin­son and Brick­works cross- share­hold­ing op­pres­sive as “just ab­surd”.

Soul Pat­tin­son owns 44 per cent of Brick­works and Brick­works owns 42.7 per cent of Soul Patts, with mem­bers of the Mill­ner fam­ily cen­tral to Per­pet­ual’s case that this cross- share­hold­ing struc­ture en­trenched con­trol in the hands of the re­spec­tive boards and bil­lion­aire chair­man Rob Mill­ner.

Per­pet­ual, hav­ing sev­eral di­rec­tor nom­i­nees for Brick­works re­jected, had ar­gued that the Mill­ner fam­ily en­joyed both un­due in­flu­ence and con­trol over both com­pa­nies. Mr Bar­low said both Soul Pat­tin­son and Brick­works had very strong and in­de­pen­dent boards that worked hard for stake­hold­ers and acted in the best in­ter­est of all share­hold­ers.

Per­pet­ual has not re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment.

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