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Nickel 28 fires founders on ‘serious misconduct’ that they deny

7th May 2024

By: Bloomberg

  

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Nickel 28 Capital said it has fired its founders, including CEO Anthony Milewski, after an investigation uncovered “serious misconduct” — claims the ousted management team says are untrue and part of a years-long battle for control at the Canadian mining firm.

The nickel and cobalt producer removed Milewski, along with President Justin Cochrane and CFO Conor Kearns, with immediate effect, it said Monday, after the board reviewed findings made by an independent special committee. The investigation found evidence the management team had breached their duties and repeatedly lacked judgment, the board said.

Milewski, Cochrane and Kearns denied the allegations in a separate statement and said they believe their terminations are tied to a fight for control led by top shareholder Pelham Investment Partners, a New York-based hedge fund. Pelham didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

The upheaval at Nickel 28 comes at a time of turmoil in the wider battery-metal industry, as demand for electric vehicles stagnates in some key markets. The fits and starts of the sector are nothing new for commodities investors like Milewski, whose previous company owned the largest private cobalt stockpile on the planet right before prices crashed in 2018. Undeterred, he then formed Nickel 28 to continue to invest in the battery-metal sector. The Toronto-based company owns interests and royalties in mining projects in Canada, Australia and Papua New Guinea, with a focus on nickel and cobalt mining.

In March 2023, Pelham launched a tender offer to grow its ownership of the company, citing concerns including a lack of “independent oversight and what we view as excessive executive compensation.” It then pushed to name new directors to the board. In August, Nickel 28 reconstituted its board of directors, including adding Pelham founder Ned Collery and Brett Richards, CEO of Goldshore Resources. Since then, the board has been “second-guessing management decisions,” the founders said.

Shortly after joining the board, Collery and Richards “launched and conducted an investigation tainted by potential conflicts of interest, culminating in the unlawful withholding of earned compensation and these unlawful terminations,” the founders said in the statement, adding that they may pursue legal remedies if the parties can’t work it out amicably.

The special committee was formed in early December 2023 to investigate “historical compensation arrangements, including grants made under the company’s omnibus long-term incentive plan,” the board’s statement said. It also looked into compliance with company policies, including its insider trading and expense policies. It didn’t specify in the statement what specific policies had been violated.

Edited by Bloomberg

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