The receiver for automotive dealership Sage Group has filed a lawsuit alleging that Japanese automaker Nissan concealed a corrupt relationship between it and an auto group that bought dealerships from Sage in Universal City and Glendale and withheld millions of dollars from Sage following the sale.
Sage Group went into receivership in July 2017 following a disagreement among the three brothers who were operating the dealerships following the death of their father, Morris Schrage, in 2011.
The 31-page complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Byron Moldo names as defendants Nissan Motor Co. Ltd, in Japan, and its subsidiaries Nissan North America Inc. and Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp.; Trophy Automotive Dealer Group LLC, and its owner Nasser Watar; and three former employees of Sage.
Trophy Automotive in Glendale owns the former Sage dealership Universal City Nissan, as well as Mercedes-Benz dealerships in Valencia and Encino.
“Nissan’s nefarious scheme to oust the Sage Group and award the franchises to Trophy was ultimately successful, causing the Sage Group millions in damages,” the lawsuit said.
Nissan is alleged to have had a corrupt relationship with Trophy, Watar and Saudi businessman Khaled al-Juffali. Watar and al-Juffali “became Nissan insiders when al-Juffali bailed out Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s CEO, from his options trading misadventures. Because of that assistance, they were rewarded by Ghosn with illicit payments from Nissan’s CEO reserve fund,” the suit said.
Al-Juffali is not a defendant in the lawsuit.
None of the Nissan defendants disclosed that they knew Watar nor did they say that they were wielding influence over the Sage Group dealerships in order to depress the value of the dealerships for the benefit of Trophy, an auto group of which Watar is a principal.
“Nissan’s corrupt practices and inept (or non-existent) corporate governance led to the diminution in the value of the Sage Group Dealerships when they were ultimately sold,” the suit said.