Christo Wiese Steps Back From Brait to Brace for Steinhoff Fight

(Bloomberg) -- Christo Wiese, Brait SE’s biggest shareholder, has reduced his role at the investment company as he gears up for a legal battle with scandal-hit South African retailer Steinhoff International Holdings NV.

The billionaire is suing Steinhoff for 59 billion rand ($4.7 billion) to recoup losses incurred when the retailer’s share price crashed after the company reported a hole in its accounts in December. The legal claim partly hinges on the cancellation of a 2014 agreement in which Wiese sold clothing chain Pepkor Holdings Ltd. to Steinhoff, which eventually led to the 76-year-old becoming the largest shareholder. That deal also required Brait to sell a Pepkor stake.

Christo Wiese Steps Back From Brait to Brace for Steinhoff Fight

Wiese quit as a non-executive director of Brait’s investee company, U.K. retailer New Look, and as non-executive chairman of Brait South Africa Pty Ltd., citing time constraints. He will remain a non-executive director and has appointed his son Jacob as an alternate, San Gwann, Malta-based Brait said in a statement Wednesday.

Wiese, who owns more than a third of Brait, said last week that the move against Steinhoff is to ensure he’s part of the retailer’s restructuring talks. Steinhoff’s stock has crashed more than 95 percent, while Wiese’s wealth has slumped to $2.1 billion from more than $5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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