Billionaire industrialist and Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe is to sue his former lieutenant Calum MacLean in a multi-million pound dispute, City A.M. understands.
The row is centred on claims that Ratcliffe’s former close colleague of 16 years poached one of his finance directors.
The ground is set for a bitter legal battle between the famously tough pair, who had previously had a strong relationship, with Ratcliffe believing he was let down by the manner of MacLean’s departure.
MacLean was chief executive of Ineos, but quit late last year – and soon after was unveiled as the new boss of Synthomer. He rose to public prominence in the 2013 conflict with unions at the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland that nearly resulted in the plant’s closure.
Finance exec Steve Bennett has since also left Ineos to join MacLean as Synthomer’s chief finance officer, which it confirmed this morning. Ratcliffe believes this breaks McLean’s departure terms.
As a result, Ratcliffe wants to cancel the package given to his ex-chief exec, believed to be in the tens of millions of pounds. Most of the deal has already been paid, but the chairman wants to keep a hold of the remaining millions.
In a letter seen by City A.M., Ratcliffe has told Synthomer that hiring Bennett “reflects very badly on the reputation of your company.”
Ratcliffe’s letter assumes that the board did not know of the agreement with MacLean.
Synthomer’s code of business states the directors consider “the trust and confidence” of suppliers and customers to be “one of its most important resources.”
“Given that our two companies have a number of trading relationships, your CEO’s behaviour on this issue seems to me to be totally at odds with that noble sentiment,” Ratcliffe said.
The pair developed Ineos from a single company in 1998 to the sprawling conglomerate it is today.
Today Ineos confirmed it had written to Synthomer, saying: "Ineos can confirm that it has written to the chairman of Synthomer plc and has now received a response. Ineos is currently considering its position.”
Ineos’ lawyers at Slaughter and May have been consulted.