Markus Jooste
  • Court documents have brought to light a WhatsApp former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste sent to a partner in mid-February, Netwerk24 reported.
  • Shareholders have accused Jooste of fraud and his former company may claim back millions from him.
  • But Jooste described his situation as "a temporary problem".

As recently as mid-February, Markus Jooste apparently did not think he was in trouble.

Some Steinhoff shareholders and others have accused him of fraud for the company's "accounting irregularities". He is likely to have to answer questions in both the Netherlands and South Africa, in civil and possibly also criminal proceedings. Steinhoff may be claiming back R90 million it previously paid him. His old school turned away a donation he made.

But Jooste seems to have considered these problems to be transient.

"... that is not how partners behave when one has a temporary problem..." Jooste wrote in a February 15 message to a business partner, first reported by Netwerk24 on Wednesday.

See the full Netwerk24 report: Jooste 'dreig' sakevriend met WhatsApp

Jooste disappeared from view after admitting that Steinhoff's books were not in order and resigned from the company. He has not responded to media queries, has made no personal appearances, and has not been photographed in public.

While he has had no further involvement with Steinhoff, Jooste's own investment company Mayfair Holdings has been fighting off efforts to sell some of its prized assets after banks called in loans.

Mayfair tried to auction off another holding company, Lodestone, to make good on its loans. Minority shareholders are trying to block that sale. Jooste's February message was attached to court papers filed by one such shareholder in that blocking action.

See also: Steinhoff will wait for an actual lawsuit before deciding the fate of two directors it shares with the fund manager who plans to sue it

In the message Jooste uses a tone of indignant betrayal. He speaks of being "devastated" on hearing about moves behind his back "after what I did for you".

"I would never have expected that from you," Jooste says.

In a letter to Steinhoff staff in December Jooste said he had "made some big mistakes and have now caused financial loss to many innocent people."

See also: Steinhoff at a record low as the JSE waits for German decision on its suspension

"It is time for me to move on and take the consequences of my behaviour like a man," Jooste wrote in that letter.

Mayfair has until the end of 2018 to sell assets to settle debts with various financial institutions before they could move to liquidate the company themselves. It may have to cash in more than R2 billion in assets, which include property holdings and racehorses, to stay afloat.

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