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Jay Hambro, the chief investment officer of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance and one of the industrialist’s most loyal lieutenants, is set to leave the group after a disagreement over the sale of its European aluminium assets.
Hambro, a scion of a Danish merchant banking family and whose connections helped smooth Gupta’s rapid acquisitions spree over the past five years, is on “gardening leave” and no longer taking an active role at the group, one person familiar with the situation confirmed.
The person cautioned that Hambro had not yet left GFG, a loose collection of family-owned businesses, but said it was unlikely he would remain there in the long term.
The former banker is understood to have fallen out with Gupta over the sale of Alvance, GFG’s French and Belgian aluminium assets.
While Hambro backed a proposal from US private equity group American Industrial Partners (AIP) to buy the business, Gupta was keen to pursue a deal with Glencore to refinance its debt and thereby retain control.
Hambro has already left his position on the board of Wyelands Bank, whose acquisition was one of the first deals he did for GFG, according to company filings this month.
GFG declined to comment on Hambro’s departure, which was first reported by Bloomberg. Hambro was unavailable for comment.
The impending departure of one of his closest confidants is a blow to Gupta, who has been battling to save his metals empire since the collapse of Greensill Capital, GFG’s main lender, in March, and the subsequent launch of an investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office.
Gupta won a reprieve from creditors, including Credit Suisse, over unpaid debts last month. Credit Suisse, which is pursuing him for $1.2bn owed to its group of supply-chain finance funds, agreed to delay legal action to force some of Gupta’s companies out of business to September.
The move has given the tycoon breathing space to complete the refinancing of his operations. While Gupta has managed to strike an agreement for his Australian assets, he is still trying to find fresh financing for his UK steel assets, Britain’s third-largest producer.
Gupta also faces a battle with AIP over the European aluminium assets. The US group is the lender to the Belgian rolling mill in Duffel and recently took legal action in the UK to seize control of the unit.
AIP this year bought up all of the Duffel plant’s debt and a portion of the debt at its French sister plant in Dunkirk, while approaching Gupta with an offer to buy the two assets.
In a memo to senior management this month, however, Gupta confirmed that the group had rejected AIP’s bid for the two assets, adding that GFG was “targeting an amicable settlement of their debts using the facilities agreed with Glencore”.
The London-listed miner has offered to refinance some of the more than $500m of debt at both the Duffel site and its aluminium smelter in Dunkirk with a new six-year loan.