The Mail on Sunday

Ousted boss’s warning on oil and gas firm rocked by explosive boardroom row

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TO suffer one boardroom coup could be regarded as a misfortune. To experience two could be seen as downright carelessne­ss. Yet that is what appears to be happening at PetroCapit­al, an oil and gas investment firm whose chief executive and chief operating officer were ousted late last year and whose shares are suspended. And the tussle for control of the company will this week erupt into a major legal battle when PetroCapit­al sues three dissident investors for defamation.

Lawyers for the company have been attempting to gag Financial Mail in advance of issuing a statement this week, which they say will set the record straight on the chairmansh­ip of Manoli Olympitis, a former consort of Bond actress Marilyn Galsworthy and now husband of interior designer Emily Todhunter.

Olympitis, who is also on the board of Photo-Me, has said he is not yet ready to talk about events at the company, though he accused his opponents, including former chief executive Jochen Schaefer and Axel von Schubert, who was the chief operating officer, of trying to seize control illegally.

Allegation­s of ‘suspicious’ transactio­ns involving the shares on the PLUS stock exchange were reported by Olympitis to the Takeover Panel, which is still investigat­ing four months later.

His opponents say that the particular article of the Takeover Code invoked by Olympitis means they cannot, in the usual way, convene an extraordin­ary meeting to air the issues in public and vote against directors they do not support.

Lawyers for PetroCapit­al claim that the company is no longer in control of its own website and that fake stock market announceme­nts are being put out in its name in Frankfurt, where the company’s shares were also traded.

Though Olympitis was appointed by Schaefer and von Schubert to bolster governance at the company and steer a move up to the Alternativ­e Investment Market, the falling out between the two sides – the spark for which remains mysterious – was sudden and acrimoniou­s.

Dissidents, including von Schubert, who spoke to Financial Mail from a private island in the Bahamas, say that although eight million euros (£7.1 million) was raised for the company to invest and backers include prestigiou­s names such as Oppenheim, only one deal has been struck – to buy a one million euros stake in a tiny oil prospector in America they claim is somehow linked to Olympitis.

Schaefer, who was apparently the architect of the fundraisin­g but who sold most of his shares last autumn, says ‘a market capitalisa­tion of initially over 100 million euros was wiped out’.

They claim that Olympitis’s offices in Beauchamp Place in Knightsbri­dge, west London, as well as the services of a secretary are still being privately funded by Schaefer. They also claim he is paid £7,500 a month, plus an annual bonus of £50,000. ‘That’s a high burn rate for a company that’s not making any money,’ said von Schubert. ‘The Takeover Panel doesn’t understand the logic of the complaint.’

HE said that their lawyer had just sent a letter to PLUS Markets spelling out the damage to shareholde­rs. “They should start looking into the circumstan­ces of all this – just who might be acting in the interests of the shareholde­rs,’ he added.

‘I am still a consultant to the company and sent a stern letter three weeks ago saying there are huge issues that need to be addressed. If I don’t get a reply I will have to go to PLUS Markets. I see a ship sinking and I’m not going down with it.’

So far, PLUS Markets appears unable to contain the issue, which threatens to

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