Friday, November 21, 2008

Green venture turns sour: Bruce Willis sues M’sian royal

Hollywood actor Bruce Willis is suing a Malaysian company and its royal chairman over an investment in an eco-friendly rubber venture which went sour, the firm said Friday.

Petra Group said Willis had filed a complaint in a Los Angeles court to recover 900,000 dollars from a two million dollar investment in the firm's subsidiary, Green Rubber Global.

Petra is chaired by Tunku Imran Tuanku Jaafar, a prince in the royal family of Malaysia's Negeri Sembilan state.

"The company is very surprised with Mr. Willis' legal actions and refutes in the strongest possible terms any allegations of impropriety," Petra Group spokesman Andrew Murray-Watson told AFP.

He said Petra had refunded most of Willis' investment and had every intention of paying the remainder within a deadline, a fortnight away.

"As a gesture of good will, 1.1 million dollars of the two million Mr. Willis invested has been repaid already. Mr. Willis is aware that the balance will be repaid within the next few weeks," he said.

Murray-Watson said in 2007 Willis contacted Petra's chief executive Vinod Sekhar -- who personally owns almost 100 percent of the group -- asking to invest in Green Rubber, which uses an environmentally friendly technology to recycle tyres.

Sekhar agreed to buy back Willis' shares at any time he wanted to sell.

At the time Green Rubber was planning to list on the London stock market, but because of the global credit crunch the plans had to be put on hold -- triggering the disagreement between the two sides, Murray-Watson said.

Willis' friend and fellow Hollywood actor, Mel Gibson, is another investor in Green Rubber and is reported to be a close friend of Sekhar.

Petra said in a statement Gibson was still happy with his investment and agreed with the decision not to list the company. It quoted him as saying that "in hindsight, it has turned out to be absolutely the right decision".

Green Rubber said last year Sekhar, through Petra, owns 84 percent of the firm, with the remainder held by his celebrity friends including Indian former cricketer Kapil Dev, former golfer Lee Westwood, and the Forbes publishing family.

The firm's recycling process, which avoids used tyres being burned or ending up as landfill, reportedly uses waste-free environmentally friendly technology to produce a rubber compound that can be used to make products including tyres. -- Agence France-Presse - 11/21/2008 9:58 AM GMT

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