Former Sargon Capital founder and CEO Phillip Kingston has broken his silence on a cascade of extraordinary events that put into receivership the high-profile superannuation fintech a year ago following actions by one of its creditors – a Chinese state-owned insurance company China Taiping (~A$100 million).
Advertising itself as offering “next-generation trustee cloud infrastructure” with more than $55 billion in assets under trusteeship and supervision, Sargon Capital had reportedly engaged brokers to float on the Australian sharemarket at a reported valuation of A$1 billion just before it had to appoint voluntary administrators Ernst & Young (EY) to several of its holding companies to defend itself from an attack by Taiping.
Eventually, two New York-based private equity players Matthew Kibble and Teddy Wasserman purchased the wreckage of Sargon under the Pacific Infrastructure Partners (PIP) banner and announced rebranding to Certes Corporation. However, the holding was later renamed to Certane Group of which, The Australian Financial Review reported, one issued share is held by Matthew Kibble’s 69 years old dad Simon Kibble living in Buderim, Queensland.
Now Mr Kingston primarily puts the blame on commercial law firm Ashurst for “conflicting appointments” (“Ashurst was acting for Sargon immediately prior to their acting for Taiping”), providing bad advice to Taiping to appoint receivers and sealing its “client’s fate by completely botching the execution”.
In a blog post, he alleges Ashurst’s appointing receivers under the circumstances amounted to “the commercial equivalent of setting your house on fire to clean the carpet”.
“Ashurst destroyed the very investments their client appointed them to advise on, along with Sargon as a whole”.
“China Taiping has, to date, lost at least A$100m, plus costs, as a direct result of the course of action Ashurst advised them to pursue,” he further alleges.
“It’s likely that a professional malpractice suit brought by Taiping against Ashurst could recover at least A$100 million of completely avoidable loss”.
To him, the only winners in all this have so far been been Ashurst and (to a lesser extent) McGrath Nicol (Advisory and restructuring firm) through their sizeable fee harvests.
Hinting at Ashurst’s having acted for Sargon immediately prior to their acting for Taiping, Mr Kingston appears to be giving the law firm advice “it isn’t good business development practice to put your clients into receivership.”.
Update: Ashurst has refused to provide a public comment or a denial to be included in the story (although sent a letter with their version of some of events, but required no information from their correspondence to be published. This does not allow us to include Ashurst’s position in the story).
We continue our reasonable efforts to get further information from the parties as we believe there are reasonably serious and substantial allegations of the public interest and concern in Mr Kingston’s blog post.
The full version of Mr Kingston’s blog post is here