One of the co-founders of Ocado has agreed to pay a settlement to the grocery delivery company after he admitted taking confidential documents when trying to set up a rival.
Jonathan Faiman and a former employee, Jon Hillary, paid a settlement and agreed to delete files, ending a bitter battle between Faiman and his former business partner and childhood friend, Ocado’s chief executive, Tim Steiner.
The settlement is thought to be in the low millions of pounds. Hillary, who was a senior IT employee when he took the documents, has already paid back bonuses worth £400,000 after admitting breaching his contract.
The confidential material was found in a court-ordered search of Faiman’s hotel room and Hillary’s home in 2019 after they tried to set up a rival to Ocado.
Faiman set up Ocado in 2000 with Steiner, as well as Jason Gissing, after the trio worked together at Goldman Sachs, an investment bank. Faiman left in 2008, and in 2018 started work on Project Today Holdings Limited, which was envisaged as a rival to Ocado.
Ocado has developed into a FTSE 100 company worth £14.9bn, providing delivery services first for Waitrose, and then for Marks & Spencer. It first turned a profit in 2015, after investing heavily in warehouses filled with robots to pick orders, reducing reliance on human labour.
The end of the Ocado/Waitrose partnership in 2019 was followed by a deal between Waitrose and Today, with the supermarket promising to triple the size of its online business using Faiman’s expertise on three automated distribution centres.
However, the deal collapsed after a few months, in September 2019, after Ocado found out that Faiman and Hillary had pitched their rival business to M&S in July 2018.
A court order published by Ocado on its website on Friday listed documents taken by Faiman and Hillary. They included operational details, Ocado’s deals with Waitrose, M&S and US supermarket chain Kroger, and plans and financial information for its automated warehouses.
The defendants have 28 days to destroy all the documents.
In a statement, Ocado said the litigation “demonstrates that Ocado Group will take the strongest possible action against any individuals or companies to protect its interests. In particular, it will not hesitate to take any steps necessary to protect its extremely valuable intellectual property and know-how.”
Faiman, who is resident in Monaco, according to filings on Companies House, has since changed the name of the company to T0day (spelled with a zero). The company is still in its start-up phase, although it has about 70 employees working on similar projects.
Ocado is still pursuing separate action against Raymond McKeeve, a former partner of the law firm Jones Day, for contempt of court. Ocado said McKeeve instructed T0day’s IT technician to “burn” a secure messaging platform used by the defendants. McKeeve has argued that the deleted material was “innocuous” and not relevant to the court case.
A spokesman for T0day declined to comment.