Nov 9 2009
'Mick Many Names' casts many spells
by Rebecca Urban
The Australian November 09, 2009 12:00AM
IN Perth mining circles, particularly at the very speculative end of
the market, the name Mick Shemesian is synonymous with deep pockets.
With links to at least two dozen Australian Securities Exchange-listed
mining tiddlers, Shemesian - full name Michael Mihran Shemesian,
according to a note announcing his arrival on the register of Cape
Lambert Iron Ore last year - is purportedly a billionaire.
As is Mick Shmazian, as he was to later appear when the sale of his
Cape Lambert stake was announced.
There's also the "Mr Shamazian" identified in a court judgment as the
bloke who offered $20 million to help out a company part-owned by
another Perth mining identity, Greg Barnes. And let's not forget about
"Mihran Chammassian", who, according to the Australian Securities &
Investments Commission, is the sole director of Clara Resources. Or
"Mihran Shemessian", who was charged with possessing drugs and
implicated in a money laundering scandal in the mid-1990s. He was
acquitted on both matters.
However one spells Mick Many Names - the moniker coined by Terry
McLernon, a former Perth cop and private investigator - one thing is
not in dispute: Shemesian is one powerful bloke.
Yet in spite of his wealth and influence, the businessman is near
impossible to keep tabs on.
Born in Perth in 1969 to Armenian immigrants, Shemesian followed his
father into the prospecting business and has made most of his fortune
pegging tenements in the far-flung corners of the world before selling
them on to listed companies, including Fox Resources, Aztec Resources
and Paladin Energy, to name just a few. Deals typically follow the
same mode of operation: Shemesian, or one of his associated ventures,
vends one of his mining projects into a listed vehicle in return for
cash and a swag of shares and options. He'll offer the acquiring
company his ongoing services as a corporate adviser and then there's
the royalty rights he often secures.
Shemesian declined to be interviewed about his business affairs.
However, he did answer some questions through his public relations
adviser, First Person's John McGlue.
He describes himself as an investor and trader, with an emphasis on
"As you will understand, I make my living through my investments and
trading and would not care to share with everyone specific detail
around the successful investment strategies I employ," he says.
"This is no different to the position many brokers, hedge funds and
other successful investors would take."
One former associate, who asked not to be identified, says he's never
encountered a smarter operator than Shemesian.
"Sometimes I felt he was just too intelligent for the other people
sitting around the table," the associate says. "And I think that has a
lot to do with his upbringing, following his father into the bush.
Wally (Shemesian) was known in the industry for being quite cunning."
Despite his substantial investments, Shemesian does not take board
roles, preferring to nominate one of his trusted advisers as was
evidenced in a recent London court case between shareholders of
Westrip, a joint-venture partner of the ASX-listed Greenland Minerals
& Energy. According to court documents, Shemesian's Exchange Minerals
once offered $20m to Westrip, which was struggling financially. While
the deal never proceeded, one condition of the loan was that Exchange
Minerals could nominate three boardmembers, including the chairman.
Vince Fayad, the head of PKF's corporate advisory business in Sydney,
has acted as power of attorney for Shemesian. He is also the managing
director of Greenvale Mining, which is 31 per cent owned by Boss
Energy, where Shemesian is one of the biggest investors. While
accountant Robert Grover, who has represented Shemesian on past
business transactions, is a director at both companies.
Sydney lawyer Sevag Chalabian is on the board of one of Shemesian's
private companies, as well as several companies with past and present
links to the businessman.
Chalabian also a current director of Australian Royalties Corporation,
which famously secured almost $20m worth of shares from Aztec
Resources after threatening to exercise an option to buy back its
mining tenements for $1.
Although ARC's sole director and shareholder at the time was a Sydney
cafe owner called Sarkis Gabrielian, it was widely speculated that
Shemesian had a stake in the deal. That was only fuelled by
Gabrielian's swift exit from ARC on October 25, 2006 - the day after
the deal was announced. He was replaced by Chalabian and ARC is now
registered to the office of PKF in Sydney. Greenhill Capital Partners,
an outfit that has also advised several ASX-listed companies with
links to Shemesian, is based at the same address.
Shemesian's long-time friend Brett Matich - the pair escaped a drugs
conviction together in the mid-1990s - has also been at the helm of
companies that have done business with Shemesian.
Matich is a former managing director of Fox and Aztec. His father,
Paul Matich, was a director of Range Resources at the time it acquired
a gold project with links to Shemesian.
Both were directors at Fox in 2004 when it acquired a mining royalty
from Clara Resources, which was billed as an "unrelated party".
However, ASIC records show that Clara Resources was, and still is,
owned by "Mihran Chamassian". While Shemesian was not on the board of
Fox, his partner Wanda Lee Clarke was one of the company's largest
investors through her Australian Pensioners Fund, a private company
that conducts its business out of PKF's offices also.
Shemesian's Cape Lambert iron ore project, which was sold to what was
then known as International Goldfields for $20m plus 140 million
options in 2005, had initially been bound for Fox Resources.
The two friends, however, fell out last year, after Matich obtained a
court injunction to prevent Shemesian selling his shares in Cape
Lambert. The dispute was resolved after Melbourne underworld mediator
Mick Gatto helped to broker a peace deal.
These days Shemesian is based in Belgium, and he commutes via train to
his London office.
His Exchange Minerals Limited is either incorporated in the United
Arab Emirates - if a recent prospectus for the ASX-listed East Coast
Minerals is to go by - or the Channel Islands - according to Britain's
Companies House. An Australian arm of the business, which was stung by
the collapse of Opes Prime, counts another of PKF's Sydney partners as
its sole director and shareholder.
The group provides corporate advice and fundraising services to a
range of local mining outfits and appears - or has appeared - on the
top 20 investor lists of ASX and AIM-listed companies. It has a
website but details are scarce. The Australian used the global
database of information provider Dun & Bradstreet to attempt to find
out more about the firm.
However, a search failed to recognise the company as "credit active",
meaning that it has never applied the type of credit that warrants
another entity running a credit check. Even most small businesses have
Other firms with proven, or alleged, links to Shemesian are similarly
elusive. A search of Power United also drew blanks.
As did Gravner, another corporate adviser registered in Dubai, which
was previously reported to be linked to Shemesian. He has since denied
any involvement with the company.
Gravner's website is equally mysterious, advising that it meets
clients via email or in person only. "We do not advertise or post our
address or contact details to the public," it says.
It's a formula that obviously works. In December 2007, Boss Energy
appointed Gravner to be its corporate adviser for three years. In
return for its counsel, Gravner received a monthly retainer of $20,000
during the first year - rising to $40,000 by the third year - as well
as shares that could see it own 49 per cent of the company.
But it is Shemesian's relationship with Greenland Minerals and Energy,
which last month moved out of the London office it shared with
Exchange Minerals, that has caused the most concern among investors.
Shemesian is Greenland's largest investor through GCM Nominees, a
company registered to the Isle of Man that owns close to 16 per cent
of the stock following the 2007 sale of its 21 per cent interest in
the Kvanefjeld exploration project to Greenland.
The mysterious Gravner is also on the register - at one stage holding
a 15 per cent stake. Its failure to lodge a substantial shareholder
notice - despite Greenland's repeated requests - has added to
suspicions that Shemesian is linked to the outfit and therefore owns
more than 20 per cent of the stock.
A spokesman for Greenland confirmed last week that the company had
written to both GCM and Gravner and had been advised that the two
parties were unrelated. Curiously, however, it is understood that
correspondence from Gravner has come via PKF in Sydney.
Gravner was appointed corporate adviser to Greenland at the time the
Kvanefjeld project was acquired. It was issued 30 million shares, 100
million options plus a $20,000-a-month retainer. Rumours are
circulating that the company has been offloading shares in recent
Businessman Greg Barnes, who has known Shemesian for almost 30 years,
is currently involved in a stoush with Greenland Mining and Energy,
also known as GGG, over its refusal to provide Westrip with access to
financial and geological data. Clearly, he believes that Shemesian has
played a role.
"I am sad and disappointed that a long-standing family relationship
has been put at risk by the inability to compromise," he says. "It's a
real shame that Mick has lost his perspective because, properly
managed, GGG has great potential, which he could help realise."
However, Shemesian argues that his links to GGG are limited to that of
a shareholder, through GCM Nominees. He also denies Exchange Minerals
has a direct business relationship with GGG, instead havingcontractual
arrangements with Westrip associated with the Kvanefjeld transaction.
"This role is similar to many others that Exchange Minerals has
performed over the past five years where it has acted as an
intermediary in enabling resources sector transactions and collected
fees," Shemesian says.
Not surprisingly, many in the mining sector are keenly awaiting his next move.
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