A judge temporarily blocked John Gorman IV, a Texas bond salesman with an exotic-animal ranch, from taking over as Westech Capital Corp.’s top executive in a fight for control over the parent of Tejas Securities Group Inc.
Delaware Chancery Court Judge John Noble issued an order yesterday confirming current Westech Chief Executive Officer Gary Salamone in the top job at the distressed-debt firm while a lawsuit over Gorman’s bid is pending. Noble also granted Salamone’s request for a “status quo order” to allow Tejas to operate normally during the litigation.
“At some point, we’re going to have to come together to get a resolution of all of this,” Salamone said in a telephone interview. “I don’t know what Mr. Gorman thinks he’s going to accomplish at the end of the day.”
Salamone sued July 10, saying Gorman, co-founder and controlling shareholder of Austin, Texas-based Westech, is wrongfully seeking to amend company bylaws to allow shareholders to remove directors and executives. Gorman is misusing that amendment to seek Salamone’s ouster both as CEO and as a Westech director, according to the suit.
Gorman declined to immediately comment on Noble’s ruling because he said he hadn’t seen the decision. He had appointed himself CEO by citing his authority as majority shareholder, according to a July 7 letter to employees. Salamone said an earlier ruling by Noble left him in charge.
The Delaware judge ruled May 30 that Gorman failed to honor a voting-rights agreement by installing his slate of Westech directors and improperly removed an existing board member. That decision has been appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court.
Noble’s ruling left the seven-member board with only four validly elected directors, including Gorman and Salamone. The judge also found Gorman acted in accordance with the agreement when he ousted another director and named an ally to the board.
Noble’s ruling in May didn’t resolve the question of who controls Westech and Tejas, Salamone said. He has requested Noble appoint a custodian to break the board deadlock.
Gorman owns more than 2.4 million shares, or 59 percent of Westech’s common stock, along with about 51 percent of the holding company’s preferred shares, according to court filings. In a January interview, he said he had hosted fundraisers in Austin for Texas Governor Rick Perry and then-Senator Barack Obama.
He breeds exotic animals such as oryx and wildebeest at his R Bar C ranch outside the city.
In the earlier case, some Tejas employees and a former Westech director claimed Gorman’s trading losses and extravagant spending forced the firm to undertake an $8.5 million recapitalization.
Gorman denies the wasteful-spending allegations, saying he invested $15 million in the company and never took a salary or a dividend. In the January interview, he said he donated millions of dollars to private schools and charity wine auctions and helped the city of Austin expand its hiking and biking trails.
The bond salesman sued Salamone and ex-Westech Director Robert Halder in state court in Austin earlier this month, seeking to have a Texas judge ratify his move to oust Salamone.
Gorman claimed Salamone and others refused to recognize his “status as CEO and have denied him access in any capacity to the company’s premises, employees, books or records,” according to court filings.
Salamone and Halder countered that Gorman’s move to amend the company’s bylaws violates Delaware law and the voting agreement created as part of the recapitalization deal.
In his status quo order, Noble reaffirmed the current Westech directors were Gorman, T.J. Ford, Salamone and Michael Dura. Given the board’s split alliances, the finding “appears to have had the unfortunate result of creating deadlock on Westech’s board,” the judge said.
Noble has ordered Westech and Tejas officials to operate “in the ordinary course of business” in connection with spending or transferring funds and to preserve records, according to court filings.
The Delaware case is Salamone v. Gorman, CA No. 9870, Delaware Chancery Court (Dover). The Texas case is Gorman v. Salamone, Cause No. D-1-GN-14-002043, District Court for Travis County, Texas, 201st Judicial District (Austin).