The Western Cape High Court has given business magnate Christo Wiese the green light to proceed with his lawsuit against his former Steinhoff colleague Markus Jooste to regain control of the Lanzerac wine estate.

Fin24 report notes Wiese sold the historic wine estate outside Stellenbosch in 2012 to what was at the time described as a ‘foreign consortium’ for roughly R220m worth of Steinhoff shares.

Jooste and Wiese were briefly colleagues at Steinhoff until Jooste abruptly resigned as CEO in 2017 at the first signs of what was to become SA's largest private sector fraud scandal.

Wiese, then the group chairperson, briefly took over as CEO before stepping down a week later.

In 2021, he sued Jooste and Lanzerac Estate Investments (formerly Morpheus Property Investments), arguing that Jooste had tricked him into selling. Wiese wants a court to cancel the contract and return the wine estate to him – or force Jooste and Lanzerac Estate Investments to pay him out what the estate is worth.

In return, he would return the (now almost worthless) Steinhoff shares he received as payment.

According to Wiese, while Jooste said in 2011 that he was merely representing a consortium of third-party investors, it was now clear that he was behind the deal from the start.

Wiese added that, when negotiations were underway, Jooste was aware that Steinhoff's financial statements had been cooked.

Western Cape High Court Judge Ashley Binns-Ward on Friday dismissed three arguments or ‘exceptions’ put forward by the defendants to have the case thrown out, the Fin24 report notes.

The first argument put forward was that the terms of the sale contract meant Weise couldn't seek to have it cancelled.

But Binns-Ward was unconvinced, ruling that a party can seek to cancel any contract if it is based on fraud.

The defendants' second argument was that the sale couldn’t be reversed as Steinhoff's shares had fallen precipitously in value.

Again Binns-Ward was unimpressed, ruling that Wiese could return any shares in Steinhoff as long as they were in the same class as the shares he had received.

The judge also shot down the third exception – that Wiese had failed to join one of the parties to the sale – Aussenkjer Boerdery – to the case.

The ruling means that the case can go to trial. No date has yet been set down for a hearing.

Full Fin24 report

See also full Cape Argus report