Hampson Industries’ US arm is seeking millions of dollars in compensation from the former owners of two American firms it bought in 2008.
The subsidiary of the Brierley Hill-based firm has made allegations that members of the family who sold their stakes in Michigan aerospace tooling firms Odyssey and GTS to Hampson were engaged in “misappropriating and treating as their own private property” the assets and funds of the two companies after the deal went through.
In a writ filed in the US, Hampson claims that Randal Bellestri and his wife Kimberly treated the companies’ funds as “their own personal bank account” – including paying for gym membership, domestic helpers and maintaining their home aquarium.
After the acquisitions by Hampson, the two continued as senior employees at the firm until July last year, and the allegations relate to time when they were still employed by Hampson. The Bellestris’ lawyer said the couple intended to contest the allegations.
He said in a statement: “The Bellestris intend to vigorously defend the lawsuit as the allegations are unfounded.
“Further, the Bellestris intend to file appropriate responsive pleadings with the court on or before January 11, 2011.”
The wrangle comes after a difficult year for Hampson, which has seen its share price halve and the company issue a profit warning this summer.
It recently revealed a 91 per cent drop in pretax profits to £1.3 million for the six months to the end of September, with net debt of £89 million, raising the possibility that it could sell off parts of its business.
It said operational efficiency issues at Odyssey were part of the reasons for the lower profits.
The year has also brought about change at the top of the firm, with Hampson Industries bringing in new chief executive Norman Jordan in September to replace Kim Ward, who retired in July.
Hampson Industries bought Odyssey and GTS in May 2008 from the Bellestri family in a deal which saw it become the largest independent manufacturer of tooling systems for composite aero structures in the world.
The writ filed in Michigan details Hampson’s claims that after the transaction closed, the Bellestris exploited their positions of authority at the companies to “misappropriate” millions of dollars of the assets as well as engaging in unapproved “self-dealing” transactions at the companies’ expense.
These include claims that Randal Bellestri misappropriated more than $1 million from Odyssey’s scrap metal sales by taking payment for it in cash and keeping it for his personal use.
The writ also claims that the Bellestris used around $500,000 of Odyssey and GTS’s money to pay for their own personal expenditure, alleging that staff paid through the companies’ payroll carried out domestic work such as housekeeping, childcare and gardening.
It claims staff working for the Bellestris were treated as Odyssey employees, with some clocking in and out using a machine at the Bellestris’ home.