Events continue to unfold at AMA Group after the resignation of CEO Andy Hopkins last Sunday according to the Australian Financial Review.
Hopkins, who was accused of obtaining expenses and bonuses unauthorised by the AMA board, then resigned as a director on Wednesday. "The current dispute between myself and the board … has had a detrimental impact on the operations of AMA Group. While I had hoped to continue to serve AMA and its shareholders as a member of the board ... it is now clear that will not be possible,” he said in a statement.
“Together with a fantastic team, I have driven the growth of AMA from a dozen stores to become Australia’s largest crash repair firm.
“Therefore, I am exploring options to continue to act in the best interests of AMA shareholders, employees and customers, from my position as a major shareholder.”
Hopkins, 53, has described the claims of the unauthorised bonuses and expenses as “false”, according to Federal Court documents obtained by The Australian Financial Review.
His lawyer countered in a letter, filed in court, that the claims have only risen after investor disquiet emerged about multi-million dollar payments linked to AMA director private equity veteran Simon Moore (pictured above), who had allegedly sought Hopkins’ sacking.
Hopkins’ lawyer conceded the CEO had wrongly used AMA’s credit card on personal expenses three times over three years worth $4313.49 in Royal Perth Yacht Club membership fees and Emirates airfares of $1979.08.
But these were “made by him in error and by him inadvertently using the AMA corporate credit card for expenses which his records will demonstrate were ordinarily paid from his own funds”, the letter said and that he would repay them.
When Hopkins departed as a director he indicated that he could still agitate for a shake-up by “exploring options” with his 5.5 per cent shareholding in the company. However it appears Hopkins has divested himself of all shares today. A line of 37 million AMA shares crossed the market on Friday at 65c per share (a $24million transaction) according to data from Bloomberg. The Australian Financial Review speculates that this share block matches the former CEO's stake. AMA's shares were up to 72c by 3pm Friday in the wake of this big trade.
Hopkins also has other ties to AMA including rental properties used by the group that were paid more than $2 million last financial year in rent and outgoing expenses, according to AMA accounts. There is also an outstanding loan of $1.3 million owed to the company.
Hopkins countered with claims that Moore's behaviour should be scrutinised
Hopkin's lawyer's letter also said: “The alleged basis for this proposed termination is that various expenses and bonuses dating back to 2017 which had previously been approved by [AMA’s] chairman … as required are now alleged not to have been approved. Regrettably, this allegation is false and made without any proper process.”
“Further, and in summary, the corporate background in which this surprising allegation is now belatedly made is that of significant shareholder disquiet about the $4.4 million payment Mr Moore had demanded in 2019 and his proposed removal from the board.”
His legal letter argued controversy surrounded a $420 million deal to acquire Capital SMART from Suncorp in 2019. It said board member Moore had argued private equity would generally borrow a greater proportion of funds and “insisted AMA borrow more than the market had indicated was appropriate”.
The accounts also show Colinton Capital, founded by Moore, earned $3.15 million in fees from AMA for “financial advisory and transactional services” for the acquisition of Captial SMART and “the related equity raise and debt refinance”.
A spokeswoman for AMA’s board said it “rejects Mr Hopkins’ characterisation of the circumstances”