SINGAPORE - Singapore-registered company Bellagraph Nova (BN) Group will be seeking legal counsel to investigate the controversy involving some of its marketing and publicity materials.
The group was catapulted into the global limelight when news broke earlier this month that it had put in a takeover bid for Newcastle United Football Club.
In a statement issued on Tuesday (Aug 25) night, BN Group said that the bid to acquire the English Premier League club had "led to a number of queries relating to the company and marketing material that was purportedly released by the company".
It asserted that "the posting of the marketing material, which include matters in the pipeline but which have not been concluded, appears to be the result of the actions of certain errant individuals, possibly with malicious intent".
It added that it will not address any further media queries until the investigations have been completed.
BN Group was formed following a merger between the Dorr Group founded by Singapore businessmen Mr Terence Loh and Mr Nelson Loh, and Chinese jewellery merchant Ms Evangeline Shen's Bellagraph Group.
It was set up on July 20 with a paid-up capital of $20 million, said the group. Among other things, it claimed to own more than 30 entities across 100 countries in major business fields including finance, sports, healthcare, luxury goods, entertainment and robotics. It is headquartered in Paris and worth an estimated US$12 billion (S$16 billion).
Its publicity photos included those of the co-founders with former American president Barack Obama.
Over the weekend, the group admitted to Reuters that it had doctored photos of Mr Obama to make it look as if he had attended a meeting with its executives in Paris.
In reality, the photos were taken at a charity gala event in Singapore last December sponsored by Novena Global Lifecare, which was founded by the Loh cousins.
A spokesman was quoted as saying "there wasn't any malicious aim" behind the doctored photo.
Other inconsistencies have also surfaced in BN Group's publicity material and social media posts, including its claim that it operates more than 10,000 private jets. Another claim is that Hydra X is one of its entities and it is supposed to be implementing a trading system for the Singapore Exchange. Reuters reported that Hydra X and SGX have denied the claims.
Last Saturday, Mr Nereides Antonio Giamundo de Bourbon, who is BN Group's chief marketing and investor relations officer, told The Sunday Times: "The impression created by the Reuters article that the Group has been somewhat less than forthright on this issue is completely false."
Publicity material for BN Group describes the Dorr Group as having "over US$4 billion in assets".
Ms Shen's Bellagraph Group includes Bellagraph Jewelry, and a press statement in June said it is "most notably famed for holding the world record for highest ever online single sale transaction of US$102 million (across all product categories globally)".
Earlier in the day, the group retracted several press releases related to its business.
The releases by the BN Group were distributed by PR Newswire in the past two months.
One of them, issued on July 10, was titled Welcome To NETX - Global Conglomerate Bellagraph Nova Group Launches Latest Technolgy (sic) Platform Focusing On AI + Robotics + Healthcare.
BN Group said then that NETX "was born" as a result of a "historic" closed-door meeting that its co-founders had with Mr Obama last December.
Another one titled The New Social Technology Revolution - Panel Discussion With Bellagraph Nova Group Founders And Barack Obama On Their Ambitious Quest To Seize The Opportunity Of A Lifetime In The Post Pandemic World, issued on July 13, was also retracted.
This release claimed that "through one of the BN Group's entities, Bellagraph Jewelry's client relationship management, the King of Saudi Arabia, the King of Qatar, and Queen Mother of Qatar have expressed their interest on investment opportunities and collaborations".
It added: "Through our extensive work with the Obama Foundation charitable initiatives as well as ongoing effort to promote human rights, we have attracted several global companies such as the likes of Citibank, JP Morgan, and other established Global Fortune 500 companies to partner with the BN Group."
A third, on an unrelated topic, and titled Bellagraph Jewelry Launches World's First Male Luxury Jewellery Line Tailored For Power, issued on Aug 10, was similarly withdrawn.
In that release, BN Group claimed that Mr Obama "was seen personally donning one among Bellagraph Jewellery's unique signature 'La Rose' Lapel items that's set in uncommon coloured gem stones".
BN Group said in a note published on PR Newswire that journalists and other readers "should disregard" those releases.
The BN Group website has, since Tuesday morning, become password protected, while the Loh Brothers Foundation - which the Loh cousins established to support local sports groups in muay thai, motorsport, football and basketball - was not accessible on Tuesday night.
In a joint statement, the Lohs said: "We have recently discovered the existence of a website www.lohbrothersfoundation.org.
"While we had intended to set up a charitable foundation and had purchased the said domain name, the entity has yet to be set up. It appears that the contents of the website were released prematurely and we are taking steps to address this.
"The premature posting of the contents of the website appears to be the result of the actions of certain errant individuals."