Publicity in shareholder oppresion/activism cases in Lithuania

Legal wars between shareholders rarely involve publicity. But when they do, it can easily become viral and attract mass coverage. These are situations, which could span over years and can easily become a major task for communication professionals.

I’ve asked my Facebook and Google+ colleagues to help develop a TOP list of public shareholder conflicts in Lithuania. As today the lists consists of these cases (listed in chronological order):

Asset (company) Year (from)
Minority (%)
Controlling
numerous privatisations
of soviet companies
ca.1992-
1996
 –  –
Minvista 2000 T.Karosas (29,5) D.Mockus
SBA (Utenos trikotažas,
Klaipėdos baldai etc.)
2000 V.Bieliauskas &
D.Mockus (34)
A.Martinkevičius
Birių krovinių terminalas 2002 M.Gusiatinas (50) I.Udovickis (50)
Penki kontinentai 2006 A.Sviridovas (50) I.Dadašovas (50)
Bernelių užeiga 2006 A.Mažeika (50) G.Remeika (50)
MG Baltic Trade 2007 D.Žakaitis (7,18) D.Mockus
Mitnija 2010 A.Gureckis (10) D.Mockus
Putokšnis 2012 LitCapital (33,34) A.Stulpinas
Vilniaus prekyba 2013 J.Numavičius (?) N.Numavičius
Vilniaus prekyba 2014 L.Numavičienė (?) N.Numavičius
Achemos grupė 2014 13 shareholders (<48) L.Lubienė
PriceOn 2014 J.Laneckij (9) T.Karosas
Vilniaus prekyba 2015 M.Marcinkevičius (7,99) N.Numavičius

Shareholder Oppression vs. Shareholder Activism

Although conflicts could theoretically originate from both sides, a majority of Lithuanian ones are related to some sort of pressure from controlling group towards those in minorities. Usually such practices are called as “squeeze-out” or “freeze-out” techniques. While various form of shareholder activism could easily catch some signs of corporate raiding practices.

As early as 1961 Mr. F. Hodge O’Neal  (see F. Hodge O’Neal, Arrangements Which Protect Minority Shareholders Against Squeeze-Outs, 45 Minnesota Law Review 537-558 (1961)) tried to classify business tactics by a controlling shareholder(s) into several groups:

squeeze_out

While minority defence should start and be built around legal actions, sometimes publicity is used during the process or as a last resort. At the same time publicity can also be a weapon in hands of minority in order to build pressure for the controlling shareholder consequently raising the price or pushing for other managerial decisions.

Rather a short history of modern Lithuanian business practices provides interesting examples to compare publicity efforts in various situations. Beeing personally involved at least in three listed cases, I will try to stick only to public sources and compare these situations.

Karosas_MockusMinvista (2000): Tadas Karosas vs. Darius Mockus

Asset in question: shares of “Minvista”.

Co-owners of various business ventures, held by “Minvista” decided to split in 2000. According to T.Karosas (business daily interview in 2008), he was forced to exchange his 29,5% of shares into assets, personally selected by a controlling shareholder D.Mockus.

Publicity:In order to strengtehn his position D.Mockus used a major national daily “Lietuvos rytas”, which mounted public pressure. At the same time notorious Vladas Bieliauskas (the owner of a security company “Ekaba” and agresive investment company “Status”) was named as “negotiator”.

The fight took approximately 8 months, afterwards T.Karosas steped back and agreed to D.Mockus terms.

Bieliauskas_Mockus_MartinkevičiusSBA (Utenos trikotažas, Klaipėdos baldai etc.) (2000-2002): Status/MG Baltic vs. SBA

Asset in question: shares of “SBA”.

The legal fight was started in October 2000 and involved various episodes with SBA owned companies (Utenos trikotažas, Klaipėdos baltai etc.). In 2002 a lawyer from the leading law firm Antantas Vainauskas has acquired 34% shares of SBA from “Status ir partneriai”. Therefore minority shareholder has succeeded in selling the asset for 17 mln Litas, whereas initial investment was 12 mln Litas.

Publicity: V.Bieliauskas/D.Mockus claims were heavily supported in the national daily “Lietuvos rytas”.

Gusiatinas_UdovickisBirių krovinių terminalas (2002-2008): Martinas Gusiatinas vs. Igoris Udovickis

Asset in question: shares of “Birių krovinių terminalas”.

In 1999 “Klaipėdos Smeltė” (controlled by M.Gusiatinas) has acquired 50% of “Birių krovinių terminalas” (controlled by I.Udovickis).

Publicity: Since 2002 shareholders were involved in numerous legal trials, which ended in April 2008, when “Klaipėdos Smeltė” agreed to sell it’s shares for an agreement to cooperate. During these years local and national media were used from both sides.

Sviridovas_DadašovasPenki kontinentai (2005): A.Sviridovas vs. I.Dadašovas

Asset in question: shares of “Kriptonika”.

In 2002 “Penki kontinentai” group and “Universalios valdymo sistemos” has established a 50/50 joint venture “Kriptonika”, which in 2003 acquired 63% of “Ashburn International”.

Publicity: In 2005 “Penki kontinentai” started complaining, that “Ashburn International” acted only in the interest of “Kriptonika” management (related to UVS), therefore various legal cases were started. These were constantly supplemented with various public announcements and related communication initiatives.

Mažeika_RemeikaBernelių užeiga (2006): Algis Mažeika vs. Gintautas Remeika

Asset in question: shares of “Bernelių užeiga”.

Publicity: 50/50 co-owners of “Bernelių užeiga” restaurants chain started a fight in 2006, when A.Mažeika initiatied a police investigation on Laima Urbienė (a girlfriend of G.Remeika). A.Mažeika pointed out, that the total loss could amount up to 1,5 mln Litas. Criminal police investigation was widely discussed, up to the point, when the leading restaurant unexpectedly burnt to the ground.

Žakaitis_MockusMG Baltic Trade (2007): Darius Žakaitis vs. Darius Mockus

Asset in question: shares of “MG Baltic Trade”.

Publicity: In February 2007 Darius Žalaikis presented a proposal to sell his shares (7,18% owner). In response Darius Mockus retaliated with his dismissal from the company board due to “lack of trust”.

The fight never reached legal phase and there were no announcements about it’s final resolution.

Gureckis_MockusMitnija (2010): Antanas Gureckis vs. Darius Mockus

Asset in question: shares of “Mitnija”.

In March 2010 A.Gureckis was pushed out of the board due to claims on failures to do business inline with shareholder agreement (original owner of the company A.Gureckis sold 90% of shares to MG Baltic in 2006 for 53 mln Litas).

Publicity: In June 2010 Antanas Gureckis has comitted a suicide and left a note, that Darius Mockus was in charge for pushing him to that. Following criminal investigations and legal trials were widely discussed in media.

Šiugžda_StulpinasPutokšnis (2012-2013): LitCapital vs. A.Stulpinas

Asset in question: shares of “Putokšnis”.

In 2011 LitCapital invested 5 mln Litas into Putokšnis for 33,34% of shares.

Publicity: In December 2012 A.Stulpinas initiated a legal battle for the controll of the company, but lost it in March 2013.

NumavičiusJ_NumavičiusNVilniaus prekyba (2013): Julius Numavičius vs. Nerijus Numavičius

Asset in question: shares of “VP grupė”.

Publicity: In February 2013 J.Numavičius started legal proceedings to stop asset transfers for the 415 mln Litas contract and related initiatives.

The first phase of the trial was not successful for J.Numavičius, therefore the second phase was opened in September 2013.

Numavičienė_NumavičiusNVilniaus prekyba (2014): Lina Numavičienė vs. Nerijus Numavičius

Asset in question: a wedding contract.

Publicity: In 2014 L.Numavičienė started proceedings in order to reopen the question of ended wedding agreement. In October 2014 the matter was closed and courts refused to revise it.

13_LubienėAchemos grupė (2014): 13 sharholders vs. Lidija Lubienė

Asset in question: shares of “Achema grupė”.

Publicity: In June 2014 13 minor shareholders initiated legal proceedings against L.Lubienė on her decision to withdraw from the shareholder’s agreement, signed after the death of Bronislovas Lubys.

The fight still goes on.

Laneckij_KarosasPriceOn (2014): Jurij Laneckij vs. Tadas Karosas

Asset in question: shares of “PriceOn”.

IT startup company, built by J.Laneckij become controlled by investor T.Karosas, after his company “Ltk Capital” invested 2,5 mln Litas for exchange of 91% of shares.

Publicity: The legal fight started in November 2014 with claims on ill-management and false bankruptcy.

MarcinkevičiusM_NumavičiusNVilniaus prekyba (2015): Mindaugas Marcinkevičius vs. Nerijus Numavičius

Asset in question: share of “VP Grupė”.

Minority shareholder M.Marcinkevičius (7,99% of shares) tried to stop transfer of Akropolis chain to another jurisdiction in May 2015.

Publicity: Following initial comparatively low-profile legal proceedings public campaign was started in Ausugt 2015. It was confronted from N.Numavičius side with a heavily financed proactive counter-campaign. The war still goes on.

Radvilų rūmus atstatys Nerijus Numavičius?

Vakar neoficialiai pranešta, jog vieną geriausiai išlikusių Vilniaus istorijos paminklų – Radvilų rūmus – nusipirko didžiausias „Vilniaus prekybos“ grupės akcininkas Nerijus Numavičius.

Radvilų rūmų ansamblio šiuo metu metu tėra išlikęs kairysis šonas ir praktiškai neprižiūrėta centrinė dalis. Bendra rūmų teritorija Vilniaus miesto centre sudaro netoli 3 ha, todėl vertinama, jog bendra neskelbiama pirkinio suma gali siekti iki 50 mln. litų. Pagal originalius išlikusius rūmų statybos planus planuojama atkurti visą Radvilų rūmų kompleksą – U formos rūmus, kurių priekyje, vietoj šiuo metu savivaldybės valdomos automobilių aikštelės, išsidėstytų uždaras didžiausių Lietuvos oligarchų būstinės kiemas. Read More