Baron von Overbeck, Austrian Consul-General at Hongkong at that time, convinced Dent in supporting a venture in Sabah and together they planned to sell their rights to any interested government. With the money he received from Dent to conduct negotiations, the baron sailed to Brunei. He succeeded in persuading the Sultan, who presumably could not resist the tempting compensation offered. On December 29, 1877, the sultan entered into agreement with von Overbeck, in which the latter gained three territorial “grant” and for which the sultan received a total annual payment of 12, 000 Malayan Dollar.
Together with the above-mention grants, the sultan appointed von Overbeck “supreme ruler” with the title of “Maharajah of Sabah and Rajah of Gaya and Sandakan,” with delegated powers to govern the territory.
The Baron, however, evidently realized that several factors tended to depreciate the value of the grants he had obtained. This is because; more than a century and a half earlier the territory had already been ceded to the Sultan of Sulu who was in actual possession. Moreover, Brunei chiefs refused to recognize the Sultan of Brunei’s rights to cede the territory.
Von Overbeck, aware of the Sultan of Sulu’s dominion in North Borneo, found it necessary to entered into negotiation with the sultan for the lease of the territory. Overbeck and William W. Treacher (Acting British Consul-General at Labuan Island in Borneo), went to Sulu in January 1878. The contract dated January 22, 1878, was drafted by Overbeck himself and was written in Malayan language with Arabic character.