A fierce battle over the legendary Russian jewelry house brand Faberge broke out between Viktor Vekselberg and Brian Gilbertson, former manager of SUAL. As it turned out, Gilbertson also managed part of personal assets of Viktor Vekselberg. This is what caused the conflict. In 2008 one of the companies, Renova Resources Private Equity Ltd, filed a lawsuit against Gilbertson to the Grand court of the Cayman Islands. The lawsuit was against Gilbertson, Pallinghurst fund entities registered in the Caymans, and against Autumn Holdings Asset Inc, a company controlled by the fund of the Gilbertsons.
As stated in the case file, from January 2006 Gilbertson controlled the assets of Renova, deposited in Pallinghurst. The fund was managed on a parity basis by entities of Gilbertson and Renova. Moreover, Pallinghurst was fully funded by Renova. All investment decisions were to be approved by the Pallinghurst board of directors.
Pallinghurst was established for investing in metallurgy and mining industry. Gilbertson was to look for new projects for the fund. In 2006 he offered to buy the rights for the brand Faberge from Unilever group, manufacturer of deodorants for men. Two years before that, Vekselberg bought a collection of Easter eggs by Carl Faberge from the Forbes family for more than $ 100 million.
Renova found the idea interesting. Gilbertson and his partners, including his son, Sean Gilbertson, agreed to buy the brand for $ 38 million and asked Renova for consent to the transaction. But in December 2006 Sean Gilbertson informed Renova that Project Egg Ltd (PEL, later renamed to Faberge Ltd) was established to buy Faberge. As stated in court records, before that Renova was not informed about the establishment of PEL which was included in the structure of Pallinghurst. Lawyers of Renova required transferring rights to Faberge brand to Lamesa, Vekselberg’s company in Panama, which is not part of Pallinghurst. The revenues from the use of the brand was supposed to be received by the fund.
Gilbertson, Jr., even signed a draft of the brand sales contract between Lamesa and Pallinghurst, but on January 2, 2007 he announced the decision to cancel the deal, saying that there was a source of alternative financing available. According to Renova, 25% of the needed sum PEL borrowed from Autumn, 25% from Dr. Milan Yelineka, and another 50% were taken from KM Corporation. These investors received corresponding stake of the new issue of PEL shares. And Pallinghurst entities got less than 1% of the enlarged capital.
According to The Russian Mafia (rumafia.com) web-site, Renova accused Gilbertson of violating the agreement and demanded to return 25% of PEL and to pay the penalty.
Vekselberg’s representative refused to give comments. Faberge representative also refused to comment on the lawsuit details. A source close to the Gilbertsons said that the intention of Renova to get full control over Faberge did not suit the family, so they found alternative funding for the project.