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MILAN — The gloves are off.
Julia Haart, known to the general public for the “My Unorthodox Life” series on Netflix, has filed a complaint against her estranged husband Silvio Scaglia. And she does not mince words in the papers through her lawyers.
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“Silvio Scaglia is a liar and a fraud,” claims the complaint filed by Haart on Friday in the New York Supreme Court, adding that Scaglia is far from being a billionaire as his “so-called wealth is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.”
Although Scaglia made a profit of more than 700 million euros from his investment in Italian communications company Fastweb, the complaint alleges that the entrepreneur “had lost all of that money and then some in subsequent failed business ventures and investments,” and that “all of his other companies since 2011 have failed.” This is exemplified by Scaglia’s acquisition of La Perla in 2013, his investments of 595 million euros in the luxury lingerie brand and finally selling it off for 1 euro, alleges the complaint.
As reported in May, a Delaware Court ruled that Haart does not have equal ownership of Elite World Group, deliberating that Scaglia, who is chairman of the global talent agency, is the controlling owner of the group and its parent company, Freedom Holding Inc.
However, the judgment did say Haart remains free to pursue her other claims in the suit, including “breach of fiduciary duty” allegations against Scaglia laid out in Article V of the case.
John P.L. Kelly, a spokesman for Haart, said at the time that the order was “only preliminary and not final” and that “Silvio swore their equal partnership to her and the government.”
According to the papers filed by Haart in New York, Scaglia asked her before their wedding in June 2019 “to accept the position of EWG’s CEO, recognizing that Haart had a unique skill set and vision with the power to transform EWG’s outdated modeling business into a modern multimedia marketing venture.”
Scaglia also allegedly “begged” Haart to forfeit a salary and to agree to be compensated for her work as chief executive officer by making her a 50 percent owner of EWG’s parent company Freedom Holding Inc. and to a payment of a 2 percent fee.
Haart claims she discovered this agreement “was a pack of lies,” and she was never paid for her work as CEO — which now totals $7.3 million.
Haart was “unaware of Scaglia’s fraudulent plan,” states the complaint, claiming that, before transferring 50 percent of the shares of FHI to Haart, “Scaglia surreptitiously amended FHI’s Articles of Incorporation to permit him to have FHI issue Preferred Shares of FHI stock to himself,” a move that would give him sole control of FHI.
“As a result, when Scaglia transferred 50 percent of the stock in FHI to Haart, her ownership and control of FHI was purely illusory and she had no ability to prevent Scaglia from taking all of the money paid by EWG for Haart’s valuable services as CEO for himself.”
A spokesperson for Elite World Group told WWD that, “This latest filing echoes claims made in a Delaware court earlier this year. After a full trial, the court ruled against Ms. Haart on all counts, affirming that she does not own 50 percent of EWG’s parent company, nor may she exercise control over EWG’s operations.”
Scaglia also responded to the claims: ‘We know and have evidence proving that Julia Haart is a con artist and total failure. Nothing she says or does is real. While we firmly believe that justice will once again prevail, we will not allow any of these frivolous actions to distract us and instead remain focused on delivering best-in-class management to our world-class rosters of talent.”
The complaint credits Haart for turning EWG “from a failing modeling agency to a global media company — increasing its value exponentially — from approximately $70 million in 2018 to between $700 million and $1.1 billion according to a valuation performed by the investment bank Jeffries Group in 2021.”
Haart also contended that Scaglia has taken more than $1.5 million from the FHI account without Haart’s permission, and that he claims “he has sole access to the account,” despite Haart being a joint signatory to the account.
As of January 2021, “Haart asked for a divorce from Scaglia for reasons wholly unrelated to their business relationship,” continues the complaint, which extends over 45 pages.
The two began discussing an amicable parting in early 2021, but decided they would remain business partners, that Haart remain CEO of EWG and “to delay divorce proceedings until the end of the year pending a potential take-public SPAC transaction for EWG that was being negotiated at a $500 million valuation (which was lower than the professional valuation prepared by Jeffries).”
However, on Feb. 3, Haart learned “that Scaglia had removed $1.5 million from the FHI account without telling her,” and of the transfer of shares. “This was too much for Haart, who had lost trust in her husband’s business judgment and ability to treat her with the candor and respect the business relationship required,” and that she “no longer wanted to be his business partner,” thinking it was best to proceed with “a traditional divorce process.”
The complaint claims that Scaglia fired Haart the following day in “a romantic retaliation” because the latter did not want to remain his business partner.
The complaint cites the pending case in Delaware’s Chancery Court. “Scaglia first claimed that he never gave Haart any preferred shares. But when Haart presented those shares in that action, Scaglia next claimed that she forged the signatures on their transfer. Upon a showing that the signatures indeed belonged to Scaglia, he ultimately argued that the shares were not delivered in accordance with Delaware law, thus voiding the transfer.”
The complaint also claims that out of “greed and desperation, Scaglia has now constructed a false narrative that attempts to portray Haart as a bad actor,” accusing Haart of misappropriating $850,000 in cash on her way out. “The true facts are, however, that it was Scaglia, not Haart, who was directing that EWG funds be used to pay for personal expenses and to prop up Scaglia’s other failing ventures.”
Haart is requesting damages for “millions of dollars in management fees EWG paid to FHI for Haart’s services as EWG’s CEO; the scores of millions of dollars of the companies’ net value or the hundreds of millions of dollars of value that Haart’s efforts added to EWG’s potential sale price. Those damages must be ascertained at trial.”
In addition to summoning Scaglia for fraudulent inducement and fraudulent concealment, the complaint also summons Paolo Barbieri, former deputy chairman and current CEO of EWG, and defendant Jeffrey Feinman for aiding and abetting fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. In this case, Haart is asking “an award of money damages in an amount to be determined at trial, but believed to exceed” $257 million.
Asked for a comment, Barbieri responded that “these new claims are utterly frivolous and the attempt to involve him personally is indeed absurd.”
The complaint also alleges that Scaglia believed the Netflix show would “accrue immediate value” to EWG, which was relevant to both the entrepreneur and Haart as they “considered taking EWG public. “Prior to Haart joining EWG, Scaglia had attempted to sell Elite World, but the best ‘soft offer’ he received was $70 million, and even that offer fell through. Just three years later, with Haart at the helm, the investment bank Jeffries Group valued EWG at between $700 million and $1.1 billion.”