The Stronach family feud is spreading with Andrew Stronach joining forces with his parents by filing a lawsuit accusing his sister Belinda Stronach of “serious misconduct” at the family company she currently runs and demanding that she hand over control of his stake in the business.
Mr. Stronach, 50, holds a 23-per-cent stake in The Stronach Group (TSG), a private company that owns horse racing, gambling, real estate and farming businesses and is worth an estimated $1.6-billion. The family fortune was built by father Frank Stronach, who founded global auto parts giant Magna International Inc. in 1957 and gave up control of the company in 2010.
However, Mr. Stronach’s interest in TSG is held in a trust controlled by his 52-year-old sister, an arrangement set up in 2013 when Frank Stronach decided to run for political office in Austria. He returned to Canada a year later, but Ms. Stronach continues to run the family company. In an Ontario Superior Court of Justice filing on Nov. 1, Mr. Stronach asked that Ms. Stronach be removed as the administrator of his trust and replaced by their father.
Mr. Stronach claimed that he has been trying to get detailed financial statements on TSG since the beginning of the year and Ms. Stronach and other executives at the company “have failed or refused to respond to reasonable requests for information.” Based on documents he received in June, Mr. Stronach claimed “hundreds of millions of dollars appeared to have flowed out of TSG with no satisfactory explanation provided to beneficiaries of [Andrew’s] trust.”
Ms. Stronach and TSG CEO Alon Ossip are already facing a lawsuit filed last month by Frank Stronach and his wife Elfriede, alleging they mismanaged the family company and misappropriated funds for their own personal benefits. That lawsuit also demands the 86-year-old Frank Stronach be given back control of TSG and claims $520-million in damages.
Mr. Stronach is clearly taking his parent’s side in the dispute. The Nov. 1 court filing states “there has been a complete breakdown in trust and confidence as between Andrew, Frank and Elfriede on the one hand and the Belinda trustees on the other hand." Beside Ms. Stronach, the trustees are her two adult children, Nicole and Frank, and Mr. Ossip.
Ms. Stronach denies the claims made by Mr. Stronach and their parents, as does Mr. Ossip. None of these allegations have been heard in court. In an e-mail on Saturday, Ms. Stronach said: "The filing on behalf of my brother is an extension of my father’s legal proceedings against me and my children, and the allegations remain just as untrue. We will be responding formally in due course. It saddens me greatly that we have reached this juncture in our family.”
Mr. Ossip’s spokesman, Paul Deegan, said: “The claims are wholly without merit. Mr. Stronach and his lawyers have been provided with detailed financials of the trusts and subsidiary corporations. They have also been offered access repeatedly to key individuals in the organization to answer any questions and provide additional information. This is a Stronach family dispute that should be resolved by the family.”
Ms. Stronach is a high-profile executive, frequently appearing at family-owned race tracks and active in philanthropic activities. She was previously in the spotlight as a federal Liberal cabinet minister and Magna executive. Her brother has stayed out of the public eye. He worked in the past at the family-owned Magna Golf Club, an upscale golf and real estate development near the auto-parts company’s head office in Aurora, Ont.
Mr. Stronach said in the court filing he has spent his working life in “agricultural pursuits, including owning and operating farms in Ontario.” The court claim shows his daughter Selena is also a beneficiary of his stake in the family business. Through his lawyers at law firm Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP, he declined further comment.
Mr. Stronach’s new lawsuit repeats allegations made in his parent’s court filing, claiming Ms. Stronach used money from the family company to fund “her extravagant lifestyle and her failing or failed investments in other matters.” According to Mr. Stronach’s court filing, the family’s business “now finds itself in a liquidity crisis and is actively attempting to sell off valuable real estate and other assets in order to meet the financial obligations of its constituent companies.”
The Stronach family owns a collection of six U.S. race tracks, along with media and gambling businesses linked to thoroughbred racing. This business has almost doubled sales over the past five years, with revenues of US$1.1-billion in 2017. The family company also has extensive real estate holdings, including golf courses and a ranch in central Florida that raises grass-feed cattle. Frank Stronach has been building an organic food business since leaving Magna in 2010, and TSG has invested more than US$300-million in farming.
According to court documents, the continuing strife over the direction of the family company began in November, 2016, when Ms. Stronach and Mr. Ossip told Frank Stronach that TSG was running out of cash and cut off funding for the farming business. Father and daughter waged a private battle for control of TSG for almost two years; their dispute became public when Frank and Elfriede Stronach filed a lawsuit in October.