Airgas is suing The Carlyle Group and a former Airgas senior executive who is consulting with the private equity firm.
Earlier this month on 12th June, the Air Liquide company filed a suit in Pennsylvania alleging that the executive Leslie Graff took confidential information with him when he left Airgas this spring to work with Carlyle on a bid for assets Linde and Praxair are divesting.
The merging German and US industrial gas groups are in the final stages to deciding the winners of auctions for two packages of assets they are selling to address global antitrust concerns.
Reuters reported that Carlyle is the lead suitor for the Americas package, whilst Japan’s Taiyo Nippon Sanso may buy the European assets.
However, Taiyo Nippon acquired US assets divested when Air Liquide merged with Airgas, ruling out the Japanese bidder from buying US assets from Linde and Praxair, as reported.
Airgas said Graff has served as a Corporate Development Executive since 1989 and has been involved in most of its M&A activity.
The complaint alleges Graff started discussions with Carlyle in January to help the sponsor buy the Linde and Praxair assets. It further alleges Graff took documents to “help him and defendant Carlyle enter the industrial gas industry.”
Airgas says in the complaint it believes a team buying the assets would “require strong knowledge of the industrial gas business including the profitability of certain business lines, sales of industrial gas products by region, markets shares of competitors in certain product areas and types of employees useful to staff such business.”
The company has asked a court for an injunction to bar Carlyle and Graff from using the information he obtained and competing with Airgas. It also requests a disgorgement of revenue obtained by Carlyle from its “unlawful conduct.”