‘Bully’ gets the boot from Hout Bay community trust
Court judgment slams casino group owner accused of hijacking trust meant to generate wealth for locals
High-rolling businessman Hassen Adams, who paid his own company more than R200,000 to manage a trust set up to help the poor, has been slammed as an obstructive “bully” and removed as trust chairperson in a damning court judgment.
Last week the Cape Town High Court ruled in favour of a group of rival Hout Bay Community Trust trustees who for years have accused Adams of hijacking the trust with help from former Hout Bay mayor Dicky Meter.
As well as removing Adams and Meter as trustees, Judge Diane Davis ordered them to pay all legal costs.
Adams is chief executive of casino group Grand Parade Investments, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and owner of Burger King in SA. He was instrumental in founding the Hout Bay Trust in 1996 with a view to generating wealth for local beneficiaries by sub-letting government-owned land in Hout Bay – which he helped obtain.
But instead of wealth the trust has generated deep distrust, with Adams himself being one of the few beneficiaries, according to the rival trustees.
In his judgment, Davis slammed the conduct of Adams and his “puppet”, Meter. “My findings regarding Adams’s conduct of the affairs of the trust leave me in no doubt that his removal from office as a trustee is necessary in the interests of the proper functioning and administration of the trust,” Davis said.
“He has imperilled the proper administration of the trust, and its property, and has shown that he is not a fit and proper person to serve as a trustee.”
Davis said Meter had “slavishly” followed Adams’s lead in all trust matters, as a result of which he too should be removed. “Adams and Meter have both breached their fiduciary duties to the trust on a number of scores and Adams has shown a disturbing lack of candour regarding the contents of the trust minutes,” he said.
The judge detailed numerous examples of Adams failing to consult fellow trustees, as required by law, including hiring and firing auditors and signing off on financial statements.
He dismissed Adams’s claim that minutes of a trustee meeting proved he had authority to make unilateral decisions. “It is difficult to credit that Adams, with his much-vaunted corporate experience, could genuinely have thought that it did,” he said.
Priscilla Jansen, a trustee and one of the applicants in the case, welcomed the judgment. “Of course we do feel vindicated – it was not an easy feat,” she said.
“It is really a victory for the trust and for the entire Hout Bay community. Our hope is that the trust will now prosper and set about achieving its objectives.”
Hout Bay has witnessed several service delivery riots in recent years, particularly in the predominantly fishing community of Hangberg overlooking the harbour where residents claim to have been largely excluded from the government fishing quota system.
Neither Adams nor Meter replied to Times Select queries.