Deceased millionaire’s family sues after DNA test reveals heir isn’t related

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Elis Gosta Hjukstrom was born out of wedlock in a tiny hamlet in northern Sweden. He died in Vancouver a self-made millionaire, bequeathing most of his fortune to the man he called his son.

But a paternity test conducted after Hjukstrom’s death revealed he wasn’t biologically related to his heir.

Now, Hjukstrom’s extended family in Sweden is suing the heir in B.C. Supreme Court, claiming he and his now-deceased mother deceived Hjukstrom for decades in order to benefit financially. 

Hjukstrom, a lifelong bachelor known to many as Gus, moved to Canada from Sweden in his 20s. He died of cancer in 2017 at age 87, leaving behind a Vancouver-based import and distribution business and a family estate in Sweden worth a combined total of about $14 million, of which he bequeathed most to Swedish resident Kenth Lundback. 

In a notice of civil claim filed last May, the family alleges that Lundback and his mother intentionally defrauded Hjukstrom for over 50 years in a « calculated, callous and selfish way » by leading him to believe Lundback was the man’s biological son.

In or around 1994, Hjukstrom, centre, treated some of his Swedish family to a month-long trip to Vancouver. The family says he was very generous during this trip, and rented an apartment for them and paid for all their expenses. « Gosta was very proud to show us around Vancouver and to introduce us to his close friends and staff, » the family said. (Onyx Law)

The family — Hjukstrom’s surviving siblings, nieces and nephews — wants Lundback to be removed from Hjukstrom’s will and the trust.

In his response to the family’s claim, filed in the B.C. court, Lundback denies the allegations and argues instead that Hjukstrom knew it was possible that he wasn’t his biological son. Lundback says he and Hjukstrom enjoyed a « warm, happy and encouraging » rapport in recent years that was « akin to a father/son relationship. »

The case reveals family secrets kept quiet for decades, now exposed as Hjukstrom’s relatives and his heir argue over who should rightfully benefit from the fortune he left behind. 

Impoverished background

According to court documents, Hjukstrom grew up in a small parish in northern Sweden, born to an unwed mother and the eldest of seven children.

Hjukstrom never knew his biological father, and two of his siblings were adopted out because his mother couldn’t afford to care for them. In 1957, he moved to Canada and began what is now a successful business in Vancouver currently worth about $7 million. 

While visiting Sweden in 1960, Hjukstrom had a brief romantic relationship with Ingrid Jonsson, a childhood friend. The family claims that, soon after, Jonsson began a relationship with Nils Joel — listed as Lundback’s father on his birth certificate, and to whom he « always bore a striking physical resemblance. »

The couple split up sometime after 1962. In 1964, Hjukstrom wrote to Jonsson and told her of his entrepreneurial success.

Hjukstrom, centre right, in the black vest, sometimes travelled with his family to northern Sweden, where he had a cabin. (Mikael Nordgren)

In her reply, Jonsson told him she had a young son born a few months after they had been together. 

‘I will of course take responsibility’

« If I am in fact Kenth’s father, I will of course take responsibility, » Hjukstrom wrote in a letter filed as part of an affidavit. 

« Yes, that is the case, » Jonsson later replied. « I don’t think you need to tell anyone about it. » 

Hjukstrom trusted Jonsson, the family says, because they were childhood friends. And he was a stubborn man who wouldn’t be told what to do, despite the family’s concerns that he was being taken advantage of. 

The family says Hjukstrom soon started sending Jonsson money, and he first included her and her son in his will in 1966. Jonsson died in 2008. By 2014, Hjukstrom left the bulk of his estate to Lundback. 

After Hjukstrom died in 2017, the family questioned Lundback’s relationship to him. The executor of Hjukstrom’s estate ordered a DNA test. The results showed there was no probability of paternity.

In his response filed with the court, Lundback says Hjukstrom always knew it was possible he wasn’t the father.

Established a special bond

Lundback says Hjukstrom wanted him to be his heir, regardless of whether he was his biological son, because the two had established a special bond over the years.

Lundback also claims that he didn’t know Hjukstrom was his father until 2002, when he got a letter from him stating as much. Soon after that, Hjukstrom visited Lundback in Sweden on a few occasions, and the pair exchanged phone calls and letters. 

Lundback also claims he asked Hjukstrom, twice, if they could do a DNA test, but he says Hjukstrom replied it was unnecessary. Lundback says he didn’t know how much Hjukstrom’s estate was worth.

A photo of Hjukstrom, his sister Asta, and his nephew Mikael Nordgren at their house in the 1980s. (Mikael Nordgren)

Hjukstrom’s family in Sweden are the ones trying to take advantage of the millionaire, Lundback says, claiming they only contacted him when they wanted money and gifts. Lundback says the entrepreneur never intended to leave them his fortune.

The family disputes Lundback’s assertions. As evidence, they have submitted photos of family visits over the years, many of which they say Hjukstrom paid for. 

They say Hjukstrom was mindful of family legacies and never would have left his estate to Lundback knowing that he wasn’t his biological son.

One thing both parties do agree on is that Hjukstrom was a generous man who gave freely to family and those he was close to. 

It will be up to a judge to decide whether Hjukstrom left his estate freely to Lundback because he was deceived or because he considered them to be close. 

The court recently ruled that it will hear the suits against both the trust and the estate at the same time. The case is expected to go to trial in 2020. 

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Senators owner Eugene Melnyk sues partners in ‘failed’ arena venture

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Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is suing his partners in the « failed » LeBreton Flats redevelopment project, a twist that almost certainly spells the end of a plan to move the hockey team downtown.

Capital Sports Management Inc. (CSMI), which is wholly owned by Melnyk, is suing for $700 million.

CSMI’s statement of claim names Trinity Development Group Inc., its founder and executive chair John Ruddy, as well as project manager Graham Bird and his company, Graham Bird Associates.

According to the claim, which hasn’t been tested in court, « the joint venture failed because of an egregious conflict of interest on the part of Trinity and its principal, John Ruddy. »

CSMI claims the conflict arose when Trinity began developing an adjacent property at 900 Albert St. « in direct competition » with the LeBreton project.

Trinity has plans to build what would be Ottawa’s tallest highrise at the Albert Street site, a 65-storey residential tower.

Melnyk left vulnerable to ‘Trinity’s machinations’

According to the claim, the National Capital Commission approached CSMI in 2014 to suggest it submit a proposal for LeBreton Flats, with a new arena for the Ottawa Senators as an « ideal anchor use » for the federally owned land just west of Ottawa’s downtown core.

Melnyk’s company was then approached by several developers including Trinity, the claim states.

Representatives from CSMI met Ruddy for the first time on Oct. 30, 2014, to discuss a response to the NCC’s request for qualifications, but at that point Ruddy « downplayed » the idea that 900 Albert St. might compete with a future LeBreton Flats development.

The two partners would go on to bid on the high-profile project to redevelop the 21-hectare area.

They promised a new arena for the Ottawa Senators, as well as a mix of high-rise housing, retail, commercial and hotels.

« CSMI’s lack of expertise is what necessitated its partnership with an experienced developer like Ruddy and Trinity in the first place, » states the claim.

« It was this disparity in expertise, and the trust CSMI placed in its joint venture partner, that made CSMI vulnerable to Ruddy and Trinity’s machinations. »

RendezVous LeBreton Group’s vision for redeveloping LeBreton Flats makes a new arena for the Ottawa Senators the focal point. (image supplied by RendezVous LeBreton Group)

Altered high-rise plans

Those « machinations » referred to changes Ruddy would later make to plans for the towers his company intends to build at 900 Albert St., near the Bayview light rail station.

CSMI claims Trinity initially intended to build modest rental apartments aimed at Carleton University students, but instead convinced the city to allow extra height so the development would one day tower over nearby LeBreton Flats.

According to the statement of claim, it wasn’t until three years into the partnership that Melnyk’s company realized Ruddy and Trinity had put 900 Albert St. « in direct competition with the LeBreton project » and « destroy the viability of the LeBreton project outright. »

CSMI commissioned an independent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. That report concluded « the Ottawa market could support either one project or the other, but not both. »

A rendering of the 65-storey tower planned for 900 Albert St. (Courtesy GGLO Design)

Melnyk ‘disappointed’: lawyer

« Ruddy and Trinity should have identified the conflict to CSMI and either withdrawn from the joint venture or harmonized the two developments. Instead, Ruddy and Trinity misused confidential inside information about the LeBreton project and abused the trust CSMI had placed in them, » according to the statement of claim.

Had Melnyk’s partners not « misused their position, » CSMI would have profited from the LeBreton redevelopment and « fans would have enjoyed a new arena in the heart of the downtown. »

« They’re disappointed with where things have ended up. They’ve championed the concept of the downtown arena, » Melnyk’s lawyer, Robert Brush, told CBC News Friday.

« The process is in flux, but [Melnyk] remains committed to the hope and he’s going to explore options to make that happen. We’re going to have to see how that develops. »

NCC put partners on notice

CBC has reached out for comment from Ruddy and Trinity Development Group, Graham Bird, and the National Capital Commission but has not yet received responses.

News of the lawsuit comes one day after the National Capital Commission told the Rendezvous LeBreton partners to get their act together, or it would look for other options to develop the site.

At its meeting Thursday, the National Capital Commission did not reveal the root of the dispute between the partners.

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Immigration detainee sues feds for $50 million, alleging he suffered a mental breakdown and was given electric shock treatment

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A former immigration detainee, jailed for almost five years, two of them in solitary, while border officials fought in court to have him deported, is suing Ottawa for failing to heed doctors’ warnings of his mental illness and provide him with proper care.

Prosper Niyonzima, whose family was slaughtered in the Rwandan genocide, became a permanent resident of Canada in 1995 before criminal activity landed him in and out of jail, and resulted in the revocation of his immigrant status.

Prosper Niyonzima came to Canada in 1995 from Burundi at age 13 after his parents were killed in war there. He was adopted by an aunt in Toronto.
Prosper Niyonzima came to Canada in 1995 from Burundi at age 13 after his parents were killed in war there. He was adopted by an aunt in Toronto.  (Carlos Osorio / Toronto Star file photo)

In 2012, he was placed in detention to await deportation.

In a statement of claim filed Friday with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Niyonzima said that period of incarceration, which included more than 760 days in solitary, led him to experience a mental breakdown and rendered him catatonic for more than two years. He claims that when authorities finally transferred him to a secure treatment facility under a court order, he was forced to undergo painful electroconvulsive therapy, which was unsuccessful in addressing his condition.

“The plaintiff suffered pre-existing mental-health issues from childhood trauma following the Rwandan genocide in which his parents and three siblings were massacred. The plaintiff’s mental health issues were known to the defendant,” alleges Niyonzima’s $50-million lawsuit.

“Instead of ensuring enhanced medical treatment was provided, the defendant placed the plaintiff in solitary confinement …. The plaintiff was denied, among other things, proper clothing, proper medical attention, proper food, proper hygiene and given insufficient yard time.

“The plaintiff was given approximately three showers in a full year.”

None of the allegations have been proven in court, and the respondent, the Attorney General of Canada, has 20 days to file an intent to defend.

Niyonzima, 36, an ethnic Tutsi born in Burundi, lost his parents and siblings at age 11 when they were murdered in Rwanda. He fled to Canada in 1995 and was adopted by his aunt who successfully sought asylum here. Both became Canadian permanent residents that same year.

As a young man, Niyonzima was convicted of a series of crimes, including break-and-enter, theft and drug-related offences. After serving jail time, the Canada Border Services Agency ordered his deportation in 2005.

Eventually, he was given a five-year reprieve from deportation out of “humanitarian and compassionate concerns” that he would be returning to a country where he had no relatives and couldn’t even speak the language.

He met a woman and together they had a baby in 2009. However, Niyonzima returned to crime and was convicted of theft. Upon his release from jail in 2010, he sought help and was treated by psychiatrists, who diagnosed him with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the massacre of his family, he says in his lawsuit.

However, Niyonzima was stripped of his permanent resident status due to the new conviction and once again faced deportation from Canada. On Jan., 13, 2012, Canada Border Services Agency detained him for fear he would vanish as he waited for his deportation to Burundi.

While being held, Niyonzima was scheduled for removal on three occasions but all three attempts were stayed by the federal court, which acknowledged he had made progress subsequent to the treatment of “the mental health problems underlying his criminality.”

In July 2013, while incarcerated at Toronto West Detention Centre, Niyonzima’s daughter was adopted out to another family. Around that time, Niyonzima became catatonic and was placed on suicide watch in segregation, according to the lawsuit. A month later, he was transferred to Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay.

The lawsuit claims officials refused to transfer Niyonzima to a facility in Toronto where it would be easier for him to obtain a designated representative and access mental health professionals for assessment and treatment.

“The continued refusals resulted in an inordinate delay in obtaining proper psychiatric treatment resulting in further deterioration of Prosper’s health in solidarity confinement,” says the lawsuit.

In January 2015, Canada Border Services Agency was ordered by the Federal Court to pay for a psychiatric assessment. Niyonzima was diagnosed with catatonia and transferred to the St. Lawrence Valley secure treatment unit in Brockville, where he claims he was given the electroconvulsive treatment.

He was released on Oct. 27, 2016 under the supervision of the Toronto bail program and monitored by a team of physicians and psychiatrists. Since then, he has been issued a three-year temporary resident permit, after which he can apply to restore his permanent residence if he doesn’t have any more run-ins with the law.

Immigration detainees are entitled to a detention review every 30 days before an immigration tribunal to decide if they should be released. Niyonzima’s lawyer, Subodh Bharati said his client underwent close to 60 reviews but was never released.

“At each detention review, adjudicators of the Immigration division accepted the Canada Border Services Agency’s representations (that he was a flight risk) and continually upheld Prosper’s detention, despite the fact that he had obtained three stays of removals from the Federal Court and despite the fact that he was now catatonic and in dire need of medical treatment,” Bharati noted.

“Both the CBSA and adjudicators of the Immigration Division had a duty of care to the plaintiff to conduct their investigations in a competent manner.”

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

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Former employee sues MPAC alleging workplace ‘violence’ following Trump-themed training video

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A former employee of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation has launched a lawsuit alleging she was traumatized by a “violent” dressing down over an in-house staff video that satirized soon-to-be U.S. president Donald Trump, and then let go while on medical leave.

Darlene Rich is seeking $340,000 in damages for wrongful dismissal from MPAC, the not-for-profit corporation that assesses all properties in Ontario, and $150,000 in damages from Linda Hall, MPAC’s vice-president of communications and marketing.

In a joint statement of defence filed last week, MPAC and Hall deny nearly all of Rich’s allegations and allege she was fired for cause after failing to meet a deadline to provide medical documents. They also allege Rich’s “performance often fell below accepted standards.”

Rich’s allegations, contained in a statement of claim filed in Toronto last month, and those made by MPAC and Hall have not been proven in court.

Both MPAC and Hall declined to answer specific questions from the Star.

A spokesperson for MPAC, which is funded by municipalities and employs 1,700 people across the province, said it “takes matters relating to the health and safety of its employees very seriously and is committed to fostering a climate of collegiality and mutual respect.”

In July 2015, according to her statement of claim, Rich was hired as a media relations specialist in MPAC’s public affairs branch, which is headquartered in Pickering, after previously working as a senior communications adviser in four Ontario government ministries.

According to her statement of claim, Rich was hired to “help improve” MPAC’s public reputation, which had been “suffering for years.”

“By all accounts, (Rich) was on track to have a successful career at MPAC,” her suit states, until she was “violently verbally assaulted” by Hall, a supervisor, and ultimately fired.

During the summer of 2016, a director of valuation for the corporation created a video “satirizing” Trump in which members of the communications department were asked to participate, including Rich, according to her statement of claim.

Rich told the Star through lawyer Hendrik Nieuwland that she’s never seen the video, but said it was meant to be a “parody” training video, with the director dressed as Trump saying, “Let’s make assessing great again!”

“I assume it was an attempt to use humour to motivate people,” she said through her lawyer.

The video was briefly posted internally when, according to her statement of claim, it drew a complaint from a female employee who called it “discriminatory against women because Trump is a misogynist.”

Following the complaint, on Oct. 20, 2016, Rich’s suit alleges Hall called Rich into a closed-door meeting and, standing between her and the door, “furiously” screamed “What the f— were you thinking?!” over and over again.

“Shocked and very afraid” and feeling blocked from leaving, Rich’s suit says she was confused by Hall’s anger until she realized it was over the video, at which point she “repeatedly” explained she had nothing to do with creating it and had felt she had no choice but to comply with the request to participate.

Hall, the suit alleges, continued to “violently” berate Rich, referred to her co-workers as “total f—ups” and said they would “get their’s (sic) too.”

Rich’s suit says she felt “intimidated, frightened, humiliated and trapped” and left the meeting feeling ill with her heart “pounding.”

In their statement of defence, MPAC and Hall tell a different version of that day, saying Rich was free to leave a pre-arranged meeting in which she was an “active participant” in a 15-minute conversation.

In their statement, MPAC and Hall say the meeting was about a “potential reputational risk and public relations issue” and deny Hall swore or engaged in any coercion or violence.

The statement also alleges Rich later admitted to “yelling” at Hall in the meeting, “displayed a deep animosity toward” her and “used threatening language.”

In her suit, Rich says she is a survivor of historic verbal abuse related to family and has struggled with anxiety and depression, a fact she alleges Hall knew about from when the two briefly worked together at Metrolinx.

Hall’s “misconduct” in the meeting, she alleges, was “calculated” to cause harm.

In her suit, Rich says she is suffering from “severe depressive disorder” and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the meeting.

In the statement of defence, Hall states she was unaware of Rich’s mental health issues.

According to her suit, Rich filed a workplace complaint the day after the meeting, tried to work from home and did not return to work.

In January, following an external investigation, MPAC’s human resources director her Hall had violated the corporation’s “Workplace Discrimination, Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy” but would not say if she had been disciplined, according to the statement of claim.

Then, to Rich’s “surprise and dismay,” the HR director insisted Rich return to work, sit in an office next to Hall’s and continue to report to her, Rich’s suit alleges.

In their statement of defence, MPAC and Hall say the investigation findings “confirmed that there was no aspect of violence” in the interaction.

Rich next went on sick leave.

In her suit, Rich says her doctor completed a required medical form on April 17 but, through an “administrative oversight,” failed to submit it on time, leading MPAC to cut her short-term disability payments. The form was delivered about a month later and described a number of reasons, including panic disorder and panic attacks, why Rich could not function at work, her suit states.

Two days later, on May 17, MPAC fired Rich, “paid no severance” and cut her benefits, the suit states.

Rich is seeking damages for wrongful dismissal, discrimination based on disability, lost short-term disability payments, discrimination on the basis of disability, bad faith and conduct causing mental distress. From Hall, she seeks damages for “intentional infliction” of mental distress.

MPAC says it continued to fund short-term disability payments to Rich even after repeated attempts to get required documents and, after a warning to return to work, fired her for reasons “completely unconnected to any disability she may have had.”

Rich, her suit states, received no severance, had her benefits cut off and “has been unable to obtain reasonable alternative employment.”

Nieuwland, Rich’s lawyer, told the Star by email that employees with “mental illness continue to struggle for understanding and acceptance in the workplace,” and he hopes Rich’s lawsuit “reminds all employers of their obligations in dealing with persons under a disability.”

Jim Rankin is a reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @Jleerankin

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Bombardier sues Mitsubishi over alleged theft of aircraft trade secrets

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Bombardier is suing Mitsubishi Aircraft in the United States over alleged trade secret misappropriation.

The Quebec aerospace company alleges some of its own former employees passed on documents containing trade secrets to Mitsubishi before going to work for the company.

The 92-page legal complaint filed in a Seattle court on Friday also targets Aerospace Testing Engineering & Certification (AeroTEC), which supports the Japanese multinational in the development of its MRJ airline, as well as several ex-Bombardier employees.

None of the allegations contained in the court documents have been proven in court.

A Mitsubishi spokesman says the allegations are unfounded and the company says it will prove so in court.

AeroTEC did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

Bombardier says employees recruited to share secrets

Bombardier alleges Mitsubishi Aircraft and AeroTEC recruited no less than 92 of its former employees from both Canada and the United States.

The former workers named in the lawsuit allegedly forwarded documents regarding the certification process to Transport Canada and its American counterpart, the Federal Aviation Administration.

« The process is incredibly costly, time-consuming, and complex — even for the most experienced of aircraft manufacturers who have gone through that process and developed trade secrets to face it more efficiently, » the document reads.

This process is essential to the process of ensuring newly developed planes are given permission to fly.

Bombardier alleges that Mitsubishi specifically recruited employees who had experience with the certification process. (Radio-Canada)

Bombardier recently went through the process during the development of the C Series program, which was plagued by delays and cost overruns. The aircraft was later rebranded A220 after Airbus took a majority stake in the program.

« Bombardier has spent about a decade and several billion dollars bringing the C Series from concept to realization and this is not abnormal for an airplane that has been imagined from the drawing board, » the court documents state.

Bombardier alleges that Mitsubishi specifically recruited employees who had experience with the certification process and broke the law when it used confidential documents obtained from these employees in order to accelerate the timelines for its own MRJ airline.

The MRJ, which can transport up to 90 passengers, is scheduled to enter service in 2020, much later than the original 2013 date.

‘We don’t take this issue lightly’

In one case cited in the court documents, one of Bombardier’s ex-workers allegedly used a personal Yahoo email to transfer « very sensitive » and « secret » information concerning the Global 7000 and 8000 programs as well as exchanges with Transport Canada on device certification.

Other similar exchanges allegedly occurred through private accounts, this time through Gmail.

« We don’t take this issue lightly, » Bombardier spokesman Simon Letendre told The Canadian Press in an email. « Bombardier intends to take all necessary measures to protect its intellectual property. »

Bombardier is seeking unspecified financial damages as well as an injunction barring Mitsubishi Aircraft and AeroTEC from using confidential information allegedly obtained from ex-employees.

The Quebec aircraft manufacturer is also asking Mitsubishi and its partner to stop recruiting within its workforce to get access to privileged information.

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Bombardier sues Mitsubishi Aircraft for allegedly stealing trade secrets

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MONTREAL – Bombardier is suing Mitsubishi Aircraft in the United States over alleged trade secret misappropriation.

The Quebec aerospace company alleges some of its own former employees passed on documents containing trade secrets to Mitsubishi before going to work for the company.

The 92-page legal complaint filed in a Seattle court on Friday also targets Aerospace Testing Engineering & Certification (AeroTEC), which supports the Japanese multinational in the development of its MRJ airline, as well as several ex-Bombardier employees.

None of the allegations contained in the court documents have been proven in court.

WATCH: Bombardier’s newly built TTC streetcars already being sent back for repairs







Neither of the companies targeted by the lawsuit responded to a request for comment on Sunday.

Bombardier alleges Mitsubishi Aircraft and AeroTEC recruited no less than 92 of its former employees from both Canada and the United States.

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Estée Lauder sues founder of Toronto-based skin care company Deciem following his sudden closure of business

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Estée Lauder, owner of 28 per cent of Toronto-based Deciem skin care firm, filed a lawsuit against its founder Brandon Truaxe in Toronto Thursday morning, applying to prevent him having further involvement with the company.

In its court filings, the cosmetics giant sought to prevent Truaxe from having contact with the company, its activities and assets, and to have him replaced as Deciem’s head by co-CEO Nicola Kilner.

The beauty supply store Deciem closed all locations unexpectedly on Tuesday.
The beauty supply store Deciem closed all locations unexpectedly on Tuesday.  (Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The injunction also seeks to protect Deciem, its employers, employees, assets, social media links and e-commerce infrastructure.

Estée Lauder’s move comes just days after Truaxe posted a video on Instagram that all of Deciem’s worldwide locations — billed as The Abnormal Beauty Company — were shutting down.

Read more:

Skin care company Deciem to close all stores following founder’s Instagram post

Everything you need to know about the possible Deciem shutdown

The main Deciem website remained shut Thursday, although its online shopping site appeared to be working. Phones went unanswered at various locations. Stores listed on The Abnormal Beauty Company website were all listed as “closed” Thursday.

Established by Truaxe in Toronto in 2013, Deciem sells skin and hair care products at the company’s own shops in major cities all over the world.

They are sold at department stores such as Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada.

They come in lab- or industrial-looking tubes, pill containers and dropper bottles, and carry bland labelling, and go under product names such as “The Ordinary” and “The Chemistry Brand.”

Beauty product giant Estée Lauderbecame a minority shareholder in Deciem in 2017, when fewer than 300 people worked there.

In April, Deciem’s Kilner, who was fired by Truaxe and rehired earlier this year, said in an Elle magazine article that 450 people, most under the age of 35, were employed by the company.

In an Instagram post in May, Truaxe wrote: “I control the company; I’m running the company. Forget the shares. Yes, I may be the biggest shareholder, but that doesn’t mean anything. There are arrangements in place that no shareholder, even if they end up owning 99 per cent [can fire me.] I choose to leave when I choose to leave.”

Truaxe has boasted in the past of spending nothing on marketing and reaching an eager clientele via social media postings and word of mouth.

A court hearing has been scheduled for Friday.

—with files from The Canadian Press

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Frank Stronach sues daughter Belinda for allegedly mismanaging family fortune

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An Ontario business magnate is suing his daughter, two grandchildren and others for allegedly mismanaging the family’s assets and trust funds.

Frank Stronach, the man who started the auto-parts business Magna International, and his wife Elfriede have launched the lawsuit in Ontario Superior Court and say they have done so as a last resort.

Stronach says in a statement that the couple has made « considerable efforts » over the last two years to resolve the matter.

Thoroughbred Daily News reports the couple have accused Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of The Stronach Group that runs horse racetracks around the world, of conspiring by « unlawful actions » against the best interests of other members of the Stronach family.

The suit, which has not been proven in court, seeks more than $500 million in damages.

‘His allegations are untrue’

Belinda Stronach has denied the allegations.

« Family relationships within a business can be challenging, » she said in a statement Wednesday night.

« My children and I love my father. However, his allegations are untrue and we will be responding formally to the statement of claim in the normal course of the court process. »

A spokesperson for The Stronach Group CEO Alon Ossip, who is also named in the suit, called the allegations « baseless and are not grounded in fact or reality. »

« Alon has always honoured his obligations and acted in good faith to preserve and grow the Stronach family’s assets and to protect the interests of all members of the family, » Paul Deegan said in a statement.

« This is a dispute between Stronach family members that should be resolved between family members. »

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Frank Stronach sues his daughter Belinda alleging mismanagement of assets and trust funds

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Frank Stronach, the 86-year-old who built global automotive parts empire Magna International from humble beginnings in a Toronto garage, is suing his daughter Belinda and others — including two of his grandchildren — in Ontario Superior Court alleging mismanagement of assets and trust funds.

Frank Stronach and his wife Elfriede are co-plaintiffs in the $520 million lawsuit that names Belinda Stronach, chairman and president of The Stronach Group, Alon Ossip, the CEO of The Stronach Group, grandchildren Nicole Walker and Frank Walker and the Stronach Consulting Corp. as defendants.

In their statement of claim, the Stronachs accuse their daughter and Ossip of “having undertaken a series of covert and unlawful actions” that have been contrary to the best interests of other members of the Stronach family.

Also in the allegations contained in the statement of claim: Belinda Stronach, 52, led an extravagant lifestyle that has drained the company in excess of $70 million, including a new office in Yorkville that cost more than $10 million.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. No statements of defence have been filed.

The Stronachs are also demanding the removal of their daughter and Ossip from positions of power within the business corporation. The Stronachs are seeking a total $520 million in compensation for losses and damages the company suffered over the years, according to the statement of claim. Other accusations in the claim include allegations of breach of contract, fraudulent concealment and unjust enrichment.

Belinda Stronach also released a statement Wednesday.

“Family relationships within a business can be challenging,” she said through spokesperson Greg MacEachern.

“My children and I love my father. However, his allegations are untrue and we will be responding formally to the statement of claim in the normal course of the court process.”

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Ossip spokesperson Paul Deegan said in a statement Wednesday that the allegations against Ossip are “baseless and are not grounded in fact or reality.”

“Alon has always honoured his obligations and acted in good faith to preserve and grow the Stronach family’s assets and to protect the interests of all members of the family,” Deegan said.

“Alon created huge wealth for the family, and he has always operated in a prudent and commercially-sensible manner. Frank Stronach was a great auto parts entrepreneur, but his recent excessive spending and numerous failed ventures put his family’s wealth at risk.”

Deegan added “this is a dispute between Stronach family members that should be resolved between family members.”

The Stronachs’ statement of claim alleges that their daughter and others have undertaken actions “to appropriate Stronach family assets for their own personal benefits” to the detriment of the defendants as well as their son Andrew and their granddaughter Selena. These actions are alleged to have occurred in the period between 2011 and 2016, when Frank Stronach had appointed his daughter as the chairman and president of The Stronach Group, the claim says.

“Belinda and Alon have asserted control over The Stronach Group in an oppressive manner, and have taken steps to shut the rest of the Stronach family out of the family’s business,” the claim reads in part, describing a “complete break-down in the relationship” within the family businesses.

“Belinda has appropriated funds from The Stronach Group and has acted in a self-interested manner. She has placed herself repeatedly in situations of potential and actual conflict,” the statement of claim says.

The Austrian-born Stronach came to Canada in 1954, when he was 21. Over the years, he went on to become the largest owner and operator of thoroughbred race tracks in North America. He is also the founder of Magna International, a network of more than 330 auto parts manufacturing operations in 28 countries.

The statement of claims notes that an employment agreement was reached in 2013 to appoint Ossip as the CEO of The Stronach Group, where he would be paid $1 million annually plus “substantial employee benefits and a sizable discretionary bonus.” He was also granted a 5 per cent interest in some assets of the company.

“From virtually the moment this arrangement was entered into, Alon failed to fulfill his most basic obligations as CEO of The Stronach Group. Instead, he breached repeatedly his legal, equitable and fiduciary duties,” the claim says.

Belinda Stronach suspended Ossip from his role as the company’s CEO in 2017, although Frank Stronach — who accused Ossip of inattention and insubordination — wanted him fired, according to allegations contained in the statement of claim. Ossip still maintains positions as a trustee, director and officer of various trusts within the company.

Another twist in the saga of the Stronach family business came near the end of 2013, when Frank Stronach resigned his positions within the company to chase a lifelong dream of becoming a member of parliament in his native Austria. But barely four months after assuming his political post, he resigned and came back to Canada “in order to devote his time, efforts and attention” to the family business, according to the statement of claim.

The Stronachs, in their claim, paint a picture of their daughter and Ossip as less-than-diligent corporate executives over a three-year stretch.

“They routinely failed to report to work for days or weeks at a time in the period from late 2013 to November 2016, and failed or refused to return calls, emails and texts on a timely basis, or at all, including from members of The Stronach Group and from others associated with the various businesses carried on by The Stronach Group,” said the statement of claim.

“Belinda would show up for scheduled meetings hours late, or sometimes not at all. Frank has also become aware that Belinda has hired, and continues to hire, her friends and acquaintances to occupy positions of authority in The Stronach Group that they are unqualified to fulfill,” the statement of claim said.

The statement of claim says Frank Stronach did not take steps to reappoint himself to his previous leadership positions within the company but no one disputed his authority until later in 2016.

In November of 2016, Belinda Stronach and Ossip “informed Frank for the first time that The Stronach Group was facing significant liquidity issues” which “came as a surprise to Frank and raised red flags about their management of The Stronach Group,” according to claims contained in the lawsuit. Around that time is when Stronach’s daughter and Ossip informed him he “had no signing authority or ability to access corporate funds” since the date of his resignation in 2013, according to the lawsuit.

“Alon belittled and embarrassed Frank, and did so with the blessing and encouragement of Belinda,” the Stronachs say in their statement of claim. “Belinda and Alon made clear to Frank, Elfriede and employees of The Stronach Group that they intended to exert control over the organization, and to eliminate Frank’s role in the family enterprise that he had created and funded,” the claim says.

Mary Ormsby is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Reach her via email: mormsby@thestar.ca

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

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