Bukky Gearge, Founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of HealthPlus, and her management team are challenging the recent takeover move by Alta Semper which had reportedly bought a majority stake in the company two years ago with an investment of $18m
They are also challenging the claims by Alta Semper that it has a majority stake in the company saying instead that the investment terminates in 2023.
In a law suit filed at a federal high court the management said it wanted stop the holding company for Alta Semper’s investment in HealthPlus from the deliberate delay and withholding of funds; meddling with management, interference with the functions of key employees; abuse of corporate governance processes and now the attempt to remove George as CEO.
In 2018, UK private equity firm, Alta Semper Capital invested $18m in HealthPlus to help it expand its store footprint, hire more talent, develop distribution centres, and explore eCommerce initiatives.
The investment also gave Alta Semper seats on the board reflecting the change in ownership structure and the legal power to make binding decisions. Alta Semper did just that at the outbreak of COVID-19.
However, George and her management team didn’t agree with Alta Semper’s efforts to explore ways to grow HealthPlus. So the board decided to replace her as CEO, while she retained her shares and voting rights in the company.
In a September 25 press release, the Board of HealthPlus said that the company was replacing Bukky George, as CEO and announced Chidi Okoro as interim leader:
A renowned pharmacist and management executive, Okoro is to assume the role of Chief Transformation Officer.
Akin to a CEO’s role, Okoro will optimise day-to-day management, help the business scale, and attain profitability.
And a letter appearing to be from HealthPlus’ board to the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) says George “remains a shareholder of the company, a member of the board of the company, and can participate in the decision-making process of the company at board level.”
It was signed off by Afsane Jetha and Zachary Fond, Managing Partner & CEO, and Director of Alta Semper Capital, respectively.
The management of HealthPlus in response to the September 25 statement has however denied there has been any change in the leadership of the company.
It said, “We wish to inform the general public, the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, our staff, loyal customers, vendors, landlords, bankers and all stakeholders that the press release was not authorised by the Company or anybody acting on its behalf. And that the announcement of the appointment of a CTO is wholly false, wrongful and illegal and should be totally ignored.
“It is the handiwork of unscrupulous foreign and local businesswomen and businessmen intent on reaping where they have not sown simply because they now see opportunities from the COVID-19 pandemic, like scavengers and vultures.”