Losing money had no role in decision to leave Steinhoff after 29 years - Jooste

Markus Jooste says his departure had nothing to do with the R3 billion his family trust’s investment company, Mayfair, lost when Steinhoff’s share price crashed.

Former Steinhoff chief executive officer Markus Jooste in Parliament on 5 September 2018. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste says losing money played no role in his decision to quit the company last December.

He says his departure was because the board, against his advice, decided to launch a fresh probe into allegations that German authorities started probing in 2015 and which two Steinhoff-appointed firms had also investigated, finding nothing wrong.

Jooste says the board’s decision meant a delay in Steinhoff reporting its financial statements, leading to investor uncertainty and the collapse in the share price.

The former Steinhoff CEO gave his testimony with two senior counsel and two attorneys by his side.

The Economic Freedom Fighter’s Floyd Shivambu asked: "Why do you come with an army of counsel if your narrative is that you are not responsible for anything? What are you hiding?”

Jooste says the launch of a new probe spurred him to hire lawyers and they advised him not to come and answer Members of Parliament’s questions at two previous meetings.

Jooste says he quit Steinhoff because he’d “had enough” of the investigations he says his Austrian joint venture partner triggered in 2015.

His departure had nothing to do with the R3 billion his family trust’s investment company, Mayfair, lost when Steinhoff’s share price crashed.

“Losing money played no role in my decision to give up my role at Steinhoff after 29 years when they didn’t want to follow my advice. Because I had enough on that day after two and a half years of dealing with [the investigations] and I knew what the consequences were going to be.”

WATCH: Crucial moments in Jooste's parliamentary questions

'BIG MISTAKES'

Jooste has also been cross-questioned at Parliament about the SMS he sent colleagues after his abrupt departure in December last year.

In the SMS, Jooste referred to “big mistakes” he’d made and that it was “time to move on and take the consequences like a man.”

MPs wanted to know more, as Jooste on Wednesday insisted he was unaware of any accounting irregularities at the global retailer when he quit and also told them he’s never lied about Steinhoff’s activities.

Jooste told Parliament the “big mistake” was his choice of Austrian businessman Andreas Seifert for a joint venture that went sour.

Information Seifert passed on triggered a probe by German authorities in 2015.

Democratic Alliance MP Dean MacPherson asked him about the text message: “You stated, and I quote, 'It’s time to move on and take the consequences of my behaviour like a man'. Can you please tell me what behaviour you referred to?”

Jooste replied: “The consequences that I referred to was that I have left my life of 29 years with this company, that I started with my colleagues – and that it was the end of that career for me. The mistakes… was the choice of a strategic partner that totally made that dream-come-true collapse - with Seifert’s behaviour and what happened subsequent to that.”

Jooste says he only became aware there was suspected fraud when Steinhoff issued an announcement referring to “accounting irregularities” two days after his resignation.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)