Patrick Priestner, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Canada One Auto Group (COAG), today responded to the statement of claim filed by AutoCanada Inc. (TSX: ACQ) (AutoCanada) against him, COAG and related parties with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Commercial List (the Court). Mr. Priestner believes that the claims are completely without merit, and will defend himself vigorously, including exploring all legal options against AutoCanada.
Mr. Priestner was the founder of AutoCanada, where he served as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer from 2006 until the end of 2014, during which time the company achieved significant growth and generated total shareholder returns of over 700%. He then held the title of Executive Chairman until May 2016, when he was asked to step down from his executive role to accommodate the arrival of new leadership. In 2017 Mr. Priestner retired from AutoCanada, remaining one of the companys largest shareholders at the time.
As was repeatedly and thoroughly disclosed by AutoCanada to its shareholders, during his tenure at AutoCanada Mr. Priestner acquired a number of automobile dealerships that AutoCanada could not acquire due to widespread restrictions on public companies ownership of dealerships by many manufacturers. These purchases were specifically authorized by AutoCanadas Board of Directors, who determined that allowing Mr. Priestner to do so was in the best interest of AutoCanada, and who therefore permitted him to do so under the express terms of his employment agreement with AutoCanada.
Im just as proud of my team and our record of creating value for AutoCanada shareholders while I was CEO of AutoCanada as I am of my consistently honest and fair dealings with the company from the day I founded it. In contrast, the teams that have led AutoCanada since I stepped down have overseen dramatic value destruction, which has harmed AutoCanada shareholders immensely, Mr. Priestner said.
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The claims now put forward by AutoCanada are absurd, and nothing more than a desperate attempt to distract from the board and managements failure to create value by trying to misappropriate the dealerships that I was expressly permitted to purchase. I look forward to presenting our response and bringing to light this leadership teams issues, for shareholders, dealers and partners to fully appreciate.
Jeffrey Mathews / Dan Gagnier