Judge rejects Perpetual’s ‘ oppressive’ allegation
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.