A rebel group of shareholders trying to block the takeover of asset manager GAM have dramatically accused Liontrust boss John Ions of tactics “bordering illegality” and reported him to the Swiss takeover regulator.
Liontrust launched a takeover bid for the ailing Swiss money manager in May but have since come up against fierce resistance from a group of investors calling themselves NewGAMe, which include the French tycoon Xavier Niel.
In an escalation of the spat today, NewGAMe have reported Ions to the regulator over emails he sent to shareholders suggesting a key third party manager, Fermat Capital, would sever ties in the event NewGAMe got their way.
“John Seo [Fermat CEO] has also questioned the integrity of NewGAMe, and, having suffered long enough (as you have) with GAM executive management, is in no mind to lunge straight into a relationship with people he does not trust,” Ions wrote to shareholders.
However, after being sent the email, Seo said he was “shocked and dismayed” by the suggestions and rang Ions to force him to retract the comments.
“I never wrote those words, and I would never approve of those words,” Seo said in response.
The spat marks a ramping up of hostilities between the two parties as NewGAMe presses shareholders to block the deal. NewGAMe has now lodged a complaint with the Swiss watchdog and wrote to GAM shareholders accusing Ions of underhand tactics.
“As Liontrust is growing more desperate by the day, John Ions is resorting to more and more aggressive tactics which are bordering illegality to the point where we have to complain directly to Liontrust’s Chairman as I am sure that he, and Liontrust’s compliance department, must be unaware of the kind of emails sent in the name of Liontrust to GAM shareholders,” NewGAMe wrote to GAM shareholders.
The spat comes as the final deadline for the takeover falls today. The firms had originally worked to a 28th July deadline, which was then extended to 4th August and then again to 23rd August.
Liontrust has already ditched a key element of its initial £96m takeover bid after coming up against resistance for the firm.
Liontrust declined to comment. Fermat Capital has been contacted for comment.