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25 April 2024

Aston Martin dispute may go to court

By Karen Rem-Listana

Kuwait’s Investment Dar has threatened to file a counter-charge to UAE-based Middle East Aston Martin (Meam) if it continues to “allege” it was behind the termination of Meam’s exclusive distributorship of the Aston Martin brand in the Middle East.

“Their statement is a total bluff,” Investment Dar’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer Amr Abu Al Saud told Emirates Business.

“If somebody wants to go to the court, and if they have a real case, they should go to the court and not to the media.”

Al Saud, who is also a board member at Aston Martin, said Meam has no case as Aston Martin had not received any court statement. He said the decision of Aston Martin is a company decision and Dar had “nothing to do with it”.

“What they are saying pertaining to Dar is not true,” he said. “If this issue becomes bigger then we will come back to them and file a lawsuit against them. Our lawyers and I are talking about it.”

The Kuwaiti firm has become the largest shareholder of Aston Martin after it bought 50 per cent shares of the British luxury car manufacturer from Ford Motor Company in June 2007.

According to Meam, an independent company established under UAE law in 2003, it has agreed with Aston Martin to co-operate for 10 years, which translates to an initial five-year period with a renewal option of another five years.

However, in May 2007, Meam received a termination notice from Aston Martin effective May 8, 2008. The company has said it then filed a $50 million (Dh183m) lawsuit for breach of contract in the Dubai Court against Aston Martin UK (AM UK).

Al Saud, on the other hand, said he is “not worried” about what he described as an “un-filed case”.

“If it is filed in the court then the court should decide and we will respect the decision.”

Meanwhile, Meam should answer three questions, he said. “When did they receive the termination notice, was it before or after our take-over? Why did they receive the notice? And did they file a case to the courts?”

Jasamin Fichte, managing partner of Dubai-based Fichte & Co Legal Consultancy, said they filed the case in the Dubai Courts yesterday and the court will tell them the schedule of the first hearing today.

“That’s their game, they call it a bluff, but this isn’t,” she said. “We have been discussing these things with them for a year but they are always delaying. Now we had to go to the court.”Fichte said Aston Martin is expected to receive a copy of the suit after three weeks.

“It takes time but we can’t do anything,” she said. “The Dubai Court has to send it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), then the MFA will send it to the Consular Office of the UK.

Finally it will be brought to the Embassy in the UK and the embassy will send the documents to Aston Martin.”

Stefan Spruck, board member of Middle East Aston Martin in Dubai told Emirates Business there is no single investor who would have the motive to terminate the contract but Dar.

He said the notice did not cite any reason for the termination, but he added Meam had fully complied with the agreement and are continuing to do so.

“Until today we have not received a genuine explanation,” he said. “I might say after Dar Investment’s emergence as majority shareholder all talks with AM UK were conducted in a rather fearful and anxious atmosphere.”

Meam, however, is open for negotiations, Spruck said.

“We are open for solutions involving all parties’ interests. If we were offered what had been agreed on the basis of mutual trust five years ago, then we would not have much reason to uphold the  claim.

If elements of the case are found of a criminal nature – ie, fraud – the prosecutor’s office may be brought into the picture. Then our hands could as well be bound.”

Attempts by this paper to confirm if the lawsuit had been filed were unsuccessful.