State appeals court sides with Alticor

The Grand Rapids Press/July 22, 2006
By Aaron Ogg

Grand Rapids -- A three-judge Michigan Court of Appeals panel ruled Friday that Alticor Inc. President Doug DeVos, Chairman Steve Van Andel and former President Dick DeVos did not cheat shareholders in a former Amway Corp. Asian subsidiary.

Three former stockholders had an opportunity to recover their presumed losses and failed to do so, according to the ruling issued by judges Richard Bandstra, Alton Davis and David Sawyer. Shareholders neglected to pursue the remedy available to them through Bermuda Supreme Court, where Amway Asia Pacific Ltd. was incorporated, according to the ruling.

That was what Alticor attorney Robert Jonker argued before the panel July 13. Amway Asia Pacific now is part of Alticor, the Ada-based parent of Amway.

Former shareholders Robert F. Wardrop, a local attorney, and Donald and Nancee Turnwall, of Irons, sued, claiming Van Andel, Dick DeVos and Doug DeVos effectively forced shareholders to sell stock the day China's admittance into the World Trade Organization was announced. The WTO decision helped open China's lucrative market to Amway and other businesses.

The ex-investors claimed China's WTO entrance was not factored into an $18 per-share offer, even though Goldman Sachs and Van Andel had information that would happen. Because of that, they were cheated out of up to $1 billion.

The state appellate court panel disagreed, upholding a Kent County Circuit Court judge's decision dismissing the claim.

"Bottom line, this is the fifth dismissal in a row for this suit. It has been tossed out of federal court, two state courts and two appellate courts," according to an Alticor statement released Friday. "Enough is enough!

"So, in spite of the plaintiffs' lawyers' colorful language and eye-popping (and unsubstantiated) numbers, there's nothing for the claims to stand on. Now, let's all get back to business, shall we?"

The suit is about business being conducted fairly, said Clinton Krislov, an attorney representing the shareholders who filed suit.

"The important thing is to force the DeVos and Van Andel families to be fair with their shareholders," he said.

The decision issued Friday stated shareholders in Amway Asia Pacific did not violate minority owners' rights in buying back stock at a 53 percent premium seven years ago.

Last year, Amway subsidiary Amway China Co. Ltd. had more than $2 billion in sales in China, the firm's top market. Alticor reported sales of $6.4 billion last year.

The plaintiffs can bring the case back before the Court of Appeals, or petition the Michigan Supreme Court for further consideration.

"We will review all the opportunities that are available and pursue them," Krislov said.

Alticor operates primarily through Amway; Quixtar Inc., a North American Web-based firm; and Access Business Group LLC, which does product development, manufacturing and logistics for Amway, Quixtar and other firms. Alticor employs more than 13,000 people worldwide.

Dick DeVos is the leading Republican candidate for the post held by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat seeking re-election.

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