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Green cards, cannabis and a strip club: JCB heir in US legal battle | Business

The heir to the JCB digger empire, whose father Lord Bamford is one in every of Boris Johnson’s largest monetary backers, is locked in a legal battle with a former shut pal that has shed contemporary gentle on alleged tensions inside one of many UK’s strongest industrial households.

The case has additionally raised questions over the conduct of Jo Bamford, a 43-year-old self-styled “inexperienced entrepreneur” who’s a director at a key JCB holding firm and has now set himself up as an investor in bus manufacturing and hydrogen.

His firms, which incorporates the doubledecker maker Wrightbus, have gained taxpayer-funded contracts value almost £80m for zero-emission buses in England and Northern Eire during the last three years.

The prototype of sustainable fuel cell hydrogen bus built by Wrightbus, which Jo Bamford chairs.
The prototype of sustainable fuel-cell hydrogen bus constructed by Wrightbus, which Jo Bamford chairs. {Photograph}: Liam McBurney/PA

Nonetheless, Bamford’s enterprise dealings at the moment are below scrutiny by a choose in civil proceedings in the US.

US court docket filings and transcripts reveal he’s in a bitter dispute over the possession of a firm based mostly in Philadelphia. The paperwork make public for the primary time Bamford’s funding in the Delaware Valley Regional Heart (DVRC), one in every of a whole bunch of ventures set as much as promote fast-track entry to inexperienced playing cards below a controversial US authorities visa scheme often known as EB-5.

Bamford is suing Joseph Manheim, a former greatest pal, accusing him of “surreptitiously” seizing management of the three way partnership and utilizing that management to take $5.9m (£4.4m) from the enterprise. Manheim has vigorously denied the allegations, and has introduced his personal counterclaim. Because the dispute escalated, the 2 males have levelled a barrage of accusations towards one another.

The case went to trial in Delaware in June, giving a rare perception into a world of maximum wealth and privilege inside one in every of Britain’s most outstanding industrial households.

Joseph Manheim, pictured in 1998.
Joseph Manheim, pictured in 1998. {Photograph}: Dominic O’Neill

In the course of the hearings, Bamford informed the court docket that he raced basic Ferraris – whereas Manheim claimed he additionally collected uncommon pheasants. Below cross-examination, Bamford admitted to utilizing a firm e mail account to order cannabis and ship unspecified “inappropriate, specific pictures”.

Bamford and a third founding director, who joined him as a plaintiff, have in flip accused Manheim of utilizing firm funds for outings to a strip membership in Philadelphia, leasing a Porsche, and to cowl the price of taking part in in polo matches.

In his court docket filings, Manheim alleged Bamford was intending to make use of the legal course of to hold out a “cold coup” to grab management of the corporate.

Each males deny any claims of wrongdoing. Manheim via his legal professionals declined to touch upon the instances. The ultimate judgment on the declare and counterclaim is just not anticipated till subsequent yr.

Green playing cards ‘on the market’

Legal professionals appearing collectively for JCB, Lord Bamford and Jo Bamford stated the US legal proceedings had no reference to both the digger agency or the peer.

Anthony Bamford, 76, is likely one of the UK’s most profitable industrialists, with a web value estimated at £4.6bn. He was made a peer in 2013, campaigned for Brexit and has donated tens of millions to the Conservative social gathering. Jo Bamford, his eldest son, has donated £75,000 to the Tories.

He may additionally – in the future – take over the complete household enterprise.

Boris Johnson pictured with Jo Bamford.
Boris Johnson pictured with Jo Bamford. {Photograph}: #hydrogenroadshow

Jo Bamford turned pals with Manheim in about 2001, when the previous funding banker was courting Bamford’s sister.

The court docket hearings gave a glimpse into a as soon as shut relationship: the 2 males socialised and holidayed collectively and have been godfathers to one another’s youngsters. Bamford ultimately gave Manheim entry to his $2m Goldman Sachs funding account.

When Manheim got here up with the inexperienced card enterprise thought in 2012, Bamford backed the enterprise. The fairness in DVRC was break up between the 2 pals and a third associate, all of whom would share earnings equally, Bamford claimed. By means of his legal professionals, Bamford stated he was not considerably concerned in DVRC’s actions past attending board conferences.

The corporate’s purchasers have been primarily from China but in addition from Vietnam and South Korea, amongst different international locations. In change for investments of $500,000 apiece in native street and public transport tasks, and a charge paid to DVRC, they might apply for fast-track visas to stay and work in the US.

By January 2021, the fund holding DVRC consumer cash had accrued belongings value $623m from 1,246 traders, in line with Manheim’s pre-trial transient. From the earnings, Bamford obtained whole distributions of $2.15m between 2016 and 2020.

DVRC operated below the EB-5 programme, which allowed rich foreigners to successfully purchase the appropriate to stay and work in the US. EB-5 is now suspended for brand new candidates after criticism from senators that – although legal – it offered a nationwide safety danger.

By means of his legal professionals, Bamford stated EB-5 had been reauthorised on a number of events and that DVRC was a wholly lawful enterprise.

Polo and a strip membership

The trial revealed allegations of bizarre enterprise practices at DVRC. Manheim and the third associate in the enterprise visited a Philadelphia strip membership known as Delilah’s Den on a number of events, racking up bills of $3,928, in line with Bamford’s pre-trial transient.

Manheim additionally allegedly took cash out of the enterprise to pay between $20,000 and $50,000 to cowl the price of taking part in in a polo match in Argentina, in line with testimony of the third associate.

In accordance with court docket papers, the connection between the enterprise companions deteriorated in 2018. In August of that yr, Manheim and the opposite administrators agreed to dismiss Bamford from the board of a holding firm.

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The circumstances surrounding his elimination are extremely contentious. Bamford claimed he was unlawfully eliminated.

In his proof, Manheim gave a number of alleged causes for the dismissal and raised considerations about Bamford’s actions. He claimed that in a board assembly Bamford had put his pursuits as a shareholder forward of his duties as a director, and not prioritised the wants of the agency and its 1,200 traders. By means of his legal professionals, Bamford denied the allegation.

Bamford confirmed in court docket he had used firm e mail accounts to order cannabis by way of the web site Craigslist, and that he had additionally used his work e mail to ship “inappropriate, specific pictures”.

A tough dialog

In the course of the hearings, Manheim sought to focus on alleged tensions throughout the Bamford household.

Bamford confirmed throughout his testimony he had “regretfully left the household agency” in 2016 after a “tough and painful dialog” along with his father. “In essence, my dad didn’t wish to cease operating the enterprise, and I didn’t need him to cease operating the enterprise,” he informed the court docket. “And I didn’t actually wish to be Prince Charles, I didn’t wish to be ready for the remainder of my life. I wished to go and run my very own enterprise.”

In his proof, Manheim claimed Bamford had requested him some years in the past to hold out a DNA check on his youthful brother, who serves alongside him on the board of one in every of JCB’s firms. He alleged Bamford had given him a bag containing samples for evaluation. Manheim stated he by no means carried out the check. He claimed Bamford was typically “excitable” when discussing household issues and his strategy was to “let it calm down”.

By means of his legal professionals Bamford strongly denied this incident had ever taken place.

In the course of the trial, his legal professionals tried to have the declare struck out on the idea of relevance and that the allegation dated from two years earlier than the dispute lined in the trial. However the choose overruled the objection, saying it was pertinent as a result of “previous interactions with individuals contribute to how one views them”, in line with the court docket transcript.

In 2019, Bamford ultimately sued Manheim, accusing him of “skimming earnings” to allegedly award himself greater than $5.9m with out the data or consent of his fellow shareholders, and of fraudulently taking management of the corporate. He’s claiming damages and desires Manheim eliminated and changed by a trustee.

Manheim’s request to have the case thrown out and prices paid has been rejected. In a verbal ruling on some elements of the case on the finish of the trial, the choose stated there had been “an terrible lot of cash leaving this firm for Manheim and his associates, and that’s the place the result actually turns”.

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