Last Friday, Shadwell Stud issued a press release regarding the relocation of their South African-based stallions. The negative conjecture flowing from and preceding this release compels Summerhill to respond, and this statement is intended to set out the facts.
Some twenty-two years ago, these two entities commenced a long and mutually beneficial relationship, initiated by the late Sheikh Maktoum’s Gainsborough Stud, and thereafter by Shadwell. The trust and respect which characterised the two decades is illustrated in the recent very substantial investment by Summerhill in the family-named School of Management Excellence, one of the finest facilities of its kind in the world, and which has been a resounding success.
However, personalities sometimes have an unfortunate way of disrupting sound business relationships. In general terms, several major interventions by an official of Shadwell have soured the relationship, making it untenable for Summerhill and its staff to continue. Beyond the broad disclosures mentioned here, Summerhill, out of respect for the relationship, does not believe there is any value in disclosing the detail, unless legal, commercial or moral necessity dictates otherwise.
In July 2009, in the presence of some 700 local and international attendees, a Shadwell official publicly announced a pledge of several million Rand towards the erection of the School of Excellence, in recognition of the contribution Summerhill had made to the success of Gainsborough’s business. As matters turned out, the pledge was not a donation but a loan, offered on terms so onerous that any one of four of the conditions could have materially impacted Summerhill’s finances in the future. Naturally, Summerhill declined to accept, given that much of the money had already been advanced and used in the project. Numerous acts of reprisal ensued, initiated by the same Shadwell official, in an attempt to force Summerhill to accept the conditions.
One of these involved an attempt to discredit Summerhill with the suggestion that it had improperly received proceeds from the local breeders’ premium fund. A decision delivered by a much respected Senior Counsel arbitrator vindicated Summerhill completely, and led to the resignation of the Chairman of the local breed society. In his letter to his constituents announcing his resignation, this gentleman expressed his regret at the harm which Summerhill had suffered, and he confessed to certain errors of judgment, for which he recorded his apologies. He conceded that Summerhill had at all times acted with integrity and within the rules of the fund. Regrettably, there has been no remorse shown on the part of the Shadwell official who contributed to this man’s resignation.
More recently, following another lengthy arbitration process, Summerhill was once again vindicated by a retired judge of the Appeal Court, when Shadwell failed to respect Summerhill’s rights under a stallion standing agreement, co-authored by the same Shadwell official. The judgment was accompanied by a costs award in Summerhill’s favour. Towards the end of November, in the wake of this judgment, Summerhill’s solicitors notified Shadwell of Summerhill’s intention to terminate the relationship, and invited Shadwell to join them in a statement on the matter, and to consider alternatives for the housing of its horses. In view of their age and waning fertility, Summerhill also offered to provide a retirement home for their stallions at the appropriate time. Both these invitations were ignored.
According to Summerhill’s Group Business Manager, Ferdi Heinen, “Through all of this, Summerhill has maintained a silent dignity. At the outset we attempted to save Shadwell the embarrassment of the adverse findings subsequently made against them, by proposing the intervention of a mediator, but that was also ignored. Not many businesses will have asked an entity such as Shadwell to remove their stock. We have enjoyed twenty years of excellent relations with this organisation, characterised by the profitability of their ventures and the professionalism and gentlemanly conduct of people such as Angus Gold. It is with considerable regret that we arrived at this decision. In the end though, the toll on our time and our people, made continuing intolerable. As matters stand, Shadwell has been indebted to Summerhill for more than a year, at times for large sums of money, much of it connected with judgment and the keep and welfare of their stock. Shadwell has made no attempt to settle any of this and were it not for collections made by Summerhill itself, the sum outstanding at present would be enormous. The horses will not be leaving until their dues have been settled.”