Lars Windhorst threatened with jail over showjumping business dispute

Lars Windhorst threatened with jail over showjumping business dispute

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The family company of US billionaire Frank McCourt has obtained a court order to detain German financier Lars Windhorst for failing to comply with asset disclosure obligations in a dispute over a showjumping business.

In the latest legal setback for Windhorst, a Dutch court granted the order last month following an application by a subsidiary of McCourt Global, which was founded by former Los Angeles Dodgers owner McCourt.

In a judgment outlining the decision, the judge noted that the use of “physical coercion” to enforce a court decision should be used only as “a last resort” after other measures had failed to make debtors comply with a judgment.

McCourt Global’s sports division has been in a long-running legal dispute with Windhorst over the sale of its shares in an international show jumping competition to the German businessman’s holding company.

The dispute dates to 2020, when Windhorst’s Tennor Holding agreed to buy 50 per cent of show jumping business Global Champions for €169mn, but then tried to back out citing financial difficulties due to the pandemic.

Windhorst later agreed to proceed with the deal, but failed to comply with the payment terms relating to the share purchase, according to court records. McCourt Global’s sports division has since pursued Tennor and Windhorst through the courts.

The Amsterdam District Court in 2021 ordered Windhorst to disclose his assets to McCourt Global, which subsequently also obtained a court order to seize €151mn of assets linked to Windhorst’s businesses. In January, McCourt Global obtained an order allowing it to sell some of the shares of Tennor Holding’s subsidiaries. 

McCourt Global’s sports division argued that Windhorst had made it “impossible” to sell the shares it had been allowed to seize, according to the latest judgment, given in mid-March. 

Twenty minutes before a hearing at Amsterdam’s District Court in early March, Windhorst sent documents listing his assets to McCourt Global’s legal representatives, saying “he moved heaven and earth to make the information available”, according to the judgment. 

The judge in the case deemed it “completely unbelievable” that Windhorst had been unable to provide the documents to McCourt earlier than this, adding that the last-minute submission appeared to have been for “tactical reasons”, making it hard to assess if the necessary information had been provided. 

“The requested physical coercion is justified,” the judge wrote. “This cannot be changed by the fact that he provided information at the last minute.”

“The period during which the coercion can be enforced will be set at a maximum period of one year,” according to the judgment. The ruling means that if Windhorst travels to the Netherlands he could be arrested. There is no international arrest warrant attached to the court order. 

Jan Tops, a Dutch Olympic showjumping champion who founded the Global Champions business, now fully owns it, having taken over the 50 per cent stake at the centre of the original legal dispute.

Despite a patchy business record, Windhorst has raised billions of dollars from investment firms and wealthy individuals to fund his ventures over the past decade. Illiquid bonds linked to Windhorst’s companies were at the centre of a high-profile scandal at France’s H2O Asset Management.

The financier has spent much of the past year battling lawsuits brought by aggrieved creditors in London’s High Court. In the summer of 2023, he was found in contempt of court, hit with a €150mn freezing order and conceded under cross-examination that it was “difficult” to say whether he was solvent.

Several of his companies have had major financial difficulties and Tennor has not produced audited accounts since 2018.

The Dutch accountant who audited that year’s accounts was in January forbidden from practising for two years, after the Netherlands Chamber of Accountants found his “audit file was virtually empty” and that a professionally critical attitude was “completely lacking”.

Windhorst said: “We are in process of settling with all our creditors including McCourt and therefore looking forward to close this and other pending legal cases amicably soon.”

McCourt Global denied there were any ongoing settlement discussions.