Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Aerios, the company which managed the advertising rights of Western Province Rugby (Pty) Ltd before it was liquidated at the behest of the WP Rugby Football Union, say they have begun High Court proceedings to prove their claim for damages against Western Province Rugby.
Newlands has been rocked for well over a year by the dispute: the former company which ran WP Rugby’s commercial interests was controversially liquidated in late 2016 and is the subject of an ongoing Section 417 inquiry into its affairs, presided over by retired Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann.
Aerios, who branded the liquidation a fraudulent plot, contend that they have suffered damages worth approximately R250 million as a result of the decision taken by the liquidators of WP Rugby to determine the advertising rights agreements which had been concluded with Aerios.
In a media release, they said the matter had been set down for a pre-trial hearing before Judge Thandazwa Ndita in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.
Costas Constantinou, managing director of Aerios, said he was surprised the liquidators had refused to concede that Aerios suffered damages due to the determination of their advertising rights agreements, particularly since one of the liquidators, Chris van Zyl of Mazars, “had previously deposed to an affidavit in which he acknowledged that damages would be suffered by those parties whose contracts with WP Rugby were to be determined”.
He added: “It seems to me that the liquidators are concerned that Aerios will have the largest proven claim against WP Rugby once our damages claim has been proved by the High Court, giving Aerios far greater control over the resolutions which are to be passed by the creditors of WP Rugby,” he said.
“The liquidators appear to be concerned that Aerios may call upon (them) to take steps which may be adverse to the interests of the other creditors whose claims against WP Rugby have been approved by the liquidators, including the Union and Remgro Sports Investments.”
Former WP Rugby minority shareholders Remgro revealed in mid-2017 that they would not be converting loans to the union into stakeholding, and would seek payback of around R40m which helped pay staff and player salaries at Newlands.
Aerios contend that the primary motivation for the liquidation of WP Rugby was to terminate the advertising rights agreements they had held.
They say they plan to institute a further claim for damages against the Union, RSI, the liquidators and the directors of WP Rugby arising from their conduct in liquidating WP Rugby and in transferring the business to their new operating company later this year.
“Many startling revelations will be made during the conduct of those proceedings,” said Constantinou.
*WP Rugby have been approached for comment.