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Masters Legal Stoush Continues As Lowe’s Seeks Court-Appointed Liquidator

Legal action taken by Lowe’s over the sale of Masters continues, with Lowe’s having earlier in the week filed a motion requesting that the Federal Court of Australia appoint a liquidator to oversee the wind-up of joint venture vehicle Hydrox Holdings.

Noel Hutley QC, for Lowe’s subsidiary WDR Delaware Corp, has told the court that Woolworths is selling off the joint venture without proper legal authority, it has been reported by The Australian (AAP).

“Now that, I would have thought, in relation to an organisation of this size, is a matter of deep concern and it’s a matter of deep concern to us,” Hutley was reported as telling the court.

“And to say that we have no economic interest in the outcome, is within our respective submission flawed. The joint venture agreement clearly contemplated that pending the outcome of any buyout, we would remain on the board and have all the powers that flow from that.”

Woolworths had last week advised that it had agreed to three separate contracts facilitating its exit from home improvement for estimated gross proceeds of $1.5 billion, with it moving to cease trading at all Masters stores by December 11.

However, joint venture partner Lowe’s subsequently filed the motion, in a potential blow to Woolworth’s plans.

“Despite every effort to reach a fair resolution with its JV partner, Lowe’s has been left with no other option but to seek the guidance of the court to achieve an equitable and orderly wind-up of the Masters business,” Lowe’s stated upon making the move.

“Lowe’s has acted in good faith at every stage in both the development and operation of Masters, and has been at all times an engaged investor, a committed partner and proud employer.

“On the other hand, Woolworths has engaged in oppressive conduct, including by invalidly and in bad faith attempting to terminate the JV.”

Justice Lindsay Fisher ordered both parties to return to court on September 15 for the interlocutory hearing, according to the report.

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