In a legal victory for entrepreneur Omar Amanat, Adrian Zecha, 81, renowned hotelier and founder of Amanresorts, has been reinstated by order of the High Court in London as CEO of Amanresorts.
The High Court injunction followed an unlawful attempt by Mr.Vladislav Doronin to remove Mr. Zecha as CEO and force him from his home of 15 years. The High Court was critical of Mr. Doronin's conduct and found that his attempt to crown himself CEO, without board approval, was unlawful and in violation of his joint venture agreement with the Mr. Amanat, who is assuming the role of Chairman of Amanresorts.
Mr. Amanat said, "I am delighted that Adrian is now back in charge. He will remain in charge until such time a suitable successor can be found. It is essential to me that Adrian retires in a manner of his own choosing, which requires that his loyal staff, who have helped build up Aman into what is, are looked after. The Aman brand and the legacy of Adrian Zecha are and shall forever be inextricably linked."
Amanresorts, the luxury hotel chain favoured by billionaires, was bought from its previous owners in a $358 million deal in February 2014 by a joint venture between Mr. Amanat and Mr. Doronin, a Russian businessman. As part of the deal, Mr. Zecha was to remain as CEO.
In April 2014, Mr. Doronin, acting through his company Tarek Investment Limited, removed Mr. Zecha in a boardroom coup from his role as CEO and appointed himself as CEO, despite having no hotel experience.
Peak Hotels and Resorts Ltd., Mr. Amanat's company, responded to the issue by pursuing High Court proceedings. The niche London litigation firm CANDEY, acted for Peak and Mr. Amanat, instructing John Brisby QC and Alexander Cook of 4 Stone Buildings. Mr. Doronin instructed Sidley Austin and Kenneth MacLean QC of One Essex Court, the same legal team who acted for the Barclay brothers in their fight to obtain control over Claridges.
In her judgment released on July 14, 2014, the High Court Judge, Catherine Newman QC, held that Mr Zecha's "personal identity and vision is relevant to the performance of his function and the reputation enjoyed by the brand" and that "Mr Zecha was the choice of CEO of both parties of the JVC and his exclusion… appears to me to be a clear breach of contract... Mr Doronin has no proper basis for calling himself CEO."
Mr. Zecha, said today from his home in Singapore, "I welcome the Court's ruling and am grateful to have an opportunity to ensure that Aman Resorts, a company for which I have loved and nurtured for the last two decades, will continue to be a world-class brand with a devoted following. I remain committed to Aman's growth, while also preserving its spirit."
Mr. Amanat also said Mr Zecha has announced the formation of an advisory council to help him on corporate governance matters which includes AlanHassenfeld, Chairman of Hasbro, Louis Freeh, Former Director of the FBI, Lalit Modi, of ModiEnterprises and founder of IPL and Dr. Rutsel Martha fmr General Counsel of Interpol and the United Nations.
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