Headache guru sacked son after 'untold conflict' and death threats
It's been two Christmases since wealthy migraine guru Elliot Shevel fired his son, and this year's festivities are unlikely to include the prodigal's return.
The Labour Court in Cape Town has rejected Daniel Shevel's claim that he was unfairly dismissed after making death threats against his father. Judge Anton Steenkamp said last week that The Headache Clinic founder's decision to employ his son for 16 years led to "untold family conflict and more than headaches on both sides".
And there may be more pain ahead. The doctor's 44-year-old son told the Sunday Times this week that "all options are on the table" as he considers his next move.Daniel was fired in December 2015 for misconduct and insubordination, which included the death threats, an attempted hostile takeover of The Headache Clinic, locking his father out, encouraging staff on an unprotected strike, stealing patients' files and computer disks and hacking staff e-mails.
According to Steenkamp's judgment, Daniel told advocate Mark Meyerowitz - who chaired his disciplinary hearing - that he was concerned about alleged malpractice.
In court papers, Daniel said clinic staff "raised concerns about standard patient safety protocols" and he instructed his father "to cease ... these dangerous practices".
Speaking this week from the seventh-floor Sea Point beachfront flat in Cape Town where he now runs the Migraine Research Institute, Daniel said his father had been the subject of an investigation by the Health Professions Council of South Africa.
HPCSA legal officer Maluxole Mdingi said a complaint against the doctor was considered in August 2016. "The committee resolved to accept the practitioner's explanation and take no further action ... as there was no evidence of unprofessional or unethical conduct. The case has been closed."
The Headache Clinic, in Parktown, Johannesburg, opened in 1992 and Daniel joined the business in 1998 after studying for eight years at the University of Cape Town for a business degree and an MBA."But his real passion is surfing," said Steenkamp. "He lived in Kommetjie where he could surf the big waves of Outer Kom, Crayfish Factory and other iconic surf sites. He used a web-based product that enabled him to handle the administration of the business remotely."
One of his perks was a company credit card on which he ran up expenses averaging R43,000 a month before his dismissal, according to court papers. This was on top of his salary, untaxed monthly profit share of around R150,000 when he was fired and - at one stage - mortgage bond payments of more than R62,000 a month.
"Things started falling apart around 2014," said Steenkamp. "A family feud ensued between Daniel, on the one hand, and his father, his mother, his brother Michael [also employed by Elliot] and his sisters on the other hand."
Steenkamp quoted a WhatsApp exchange between the brothers in October 2015, nine days before Daniel's suspension. "Elliot's licence and his ability to earn will be removed fast. He's going to die in jail Michael," said Daniel.
Michael replied: "Calm the f**k down. You are behaving like a lunatic. Stop throwing knives. Chill the f**k out man."
Daniel said: "It's not a knife Michael, it's a hollow point. And you threw the first knife. And tell your retard of a father that fraud, forgery and drug trafficking prescribe in 20 years. So take your water pistol off the table before you cop a full metal jacket in the forehead."
The judge said: "This display of filial and fraternal affection led Meyerowitz to conclude that ... it constituted gross insubordination."
Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration commissioner Melwyn Nash, who rejected Daniel's unfair dismissal case, found that the trust between father and son had broken down - something that was "as clear as daylight", said Steenkamp.