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The decades-long struggle for control of shipping line CMA CGM between brothers Jacques and Johnny Saadé appears to have reignited in the Middle East, after decisions handed down by a court in Syria.

This was followed by an executive board in Beirut ruling that the assets of Jacques Saadé should be seized.

In 2011 and 2013, in Lebanon and France respectively, courts ruled in favour of Jacques Saadé, but last month a court of appeal in Syria ruled in favour of Johnny Saadé, and awarded him €600m.

This was followed by the executive board in Beirut ordering a seizure of the company’s assets in Lebanon.

However, The Loadstar understands that the Lebanese court order is a “conservatory seizure”, which actually means “freeze the assets”. As a result, Jacques Saadé is unable, for example, to sell the assets, they remain under his ownership and have yet to be awarded to his brother.

A spokesman for Johnny Saadé said; “Upon the request of Johnny Saadé, an assessment is currently being made as to the total value of their assets.”

However, CMA CGM sources pointed out that the decision only specifically mentions Merit, the Lebanese company owned by Jacques Saadé, which in turn owns a series of concerns in the country, including the building in which CMA CGM’s Lebanese subsidiary is housed . But the ruling does not cover the assets of the Marseille-headquartered shipping line.

“It has nothing to do with CMA CGM at all, nothing to do with the ships or the company – all operations continue as normal. What the decision means is that we cannot sell any of the assets as they remain under ownership of Merit – the difference is crucial,” they said.

The Loadstar understands that Jacques Saadé will oppose the Beirut decision in a forthcoming hearing, and sources added that the executive board firstly took its decision “without confirming that it is a definitive decision”, and secondly “without giving us the change to defend our case”.

“We were not asked to put our view across and we are opposing the decision. There will soon be another hearing in the coming days and we will be requesting two things from it: a suspension of the conservatory seizing, and secondly the cancellation of the conservatory seizing. [This is] based on the fact that the Syrian judgment wasn’t a definitive decision and so cannot be executed, and also based on the act that the Lebanese courts have already decided against all previous claims by Johnny Saadé,” The Loadstar was told.

The dispute between the two brothers goes back to the 1990s when they jointly ran the CMA shipping company and appears to have its origins over the decision to acquire France’s state owned shipping line, CGM.

Johnny Saadé subsequently filed a lawsuit against Jacques Saadé claiming that he had intentionally concealed facts about CMA CGM’s financial status and management, and a settlement was reached in 2000 that saw Johnny Saadé sell his share of the company for about $40m.

Until the most recent bout of legal activity, subsequent courts have continued to find in favour of Jacques Saadé, and without right of appeal. The latest hearing in Beirut is expected to occur within the next few days.

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