Wilson’s deal with Medline ended in 2010 when he sued Reynolds in Cook County, saying he’d been “maligned, defamed and damaged” by an email Reynolds sent to 11 Zimbabwe officials and businessmen in which he wrote that he and Higginbottom were no longer working with Wilson because Wilson’s company had limited products and was significantly smaller than Medline.
In the June 23, 2010, email, Reynolds told the Zimbabweans he and Higginbottom had formed a partnership with Medline.
“Mr. Higginbottom . . . has direct access to more than a billion dollars of investment dollars,” Reynolds wrote, laying out their plans for a distribution and manufacturing plant that never came to fruition.
In his lawsuit, which he dropped two years later, Wilson said he invested more than $100,000 before the deal fell apart.
Medline and Higginbottom declined to comment on their deal.
Higginbottom made a few trips to Zimbabwe with his family and business partners, according to Charles Ray, who served under Obama as U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe between 2009 and 2012. Ray also accompanied Zimbabwe officials to meet with Higginbottom in Chicago.
“They were looking at a broad range of opportunities to include the minerals market, diamonds, even gold,” Ray says.
Higginbottom won’t discuss the ventures he was looking at in Zimbabwe with partners including John Girzadas, who’s vice president of Burling Builders and president of B. Coleman Aviation — both owned by Higginbottom. Girzadas says there were discussions about diamond mining but, “There’s never been any serious pursuit of that.”
Higginbottom says he never had any interest in diamonds despite reports in African newspapers, including a June 2013 report in the Guardian & Mail in neighboring South Africa that quoted him saying: “We are no longer pursuing any diamond interests. The Zimbabwe state diamond entities engaged in the diamond trade are sanctioned and thus we have eliminated this area from our potential ventures. We are and will remain in full compliance with U.S. policy and laws.”
Though Jackson and Higginbottom met with Mugabe in Zimbabwe in the spring of 2013, Jackson says he didn’t “know much about” Higginbottom’s interests there.
Jackson, who says he’s known Mugabe for 30 years, says the U.S. should have better relations with Zimbabwe, with its abundance of natural resources.
“It seems the sanctions aren’t working. The result of the sanctions is the people grew to resent us,” Jackson says, likening U.S. policy in Zimbabwe to what was applied to Cuba under Fidel Castro. “My impression . . . is we’re waiting for Mugabe to leave. It’s like waiting for Castro to leave.”
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