Insolvency guru KordaMentha’s Mark Korda under fire on advice

KordaMentha partner Mark Korda advised Octaviar’s directors before the firm collapsed. Photo: Louie DouvisOne of Australia’s best-known insolvency practitioners, KordaMentha partner Mark Korda, has been accused of giving substandard advice to failed investment group Octaviar in the run-up to its collapse in September 2008.
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In a lawsuit filed with the Queensland Supreme Court, the liquidators of two companies in the Octaviar group accuse KordaMentha’s advisory arm, 333 Capital, of breach of duty and misleading or deceptive conduct.

The claim is based on advice given by Mr Korda to directors of Octaviar, formerly known as MFS, at a series of board meetings from late January 2008.

333 Capital has yet to file a defence but a spokesman said the claim was ”ludicrous and would be a waste of the liquidators’ and creditors’ time and resources if it proceeded”.

Directors of Octaviar pulled the plug on the debt-laden group on September 13, 2008, by appointing administrators.

Along with City Pacific, MFS rode the Gold Coast property boom in the mid-2000s, at its peak hitting a market value of $2.4 billion and boasting as chairman former Liberal Party leader Andrew Peacock.

However, its complex and highly leveraged structure, which included $2.5 billion in debt, could not survive the Global Financial Crisis.

The case against 333 Capital was lodged in January by Ferrier Hodgson, which is liquidating Octaviar Investment Notes and Octaviar Investment Bonds, two Octaviar companies that raised money for the group.

It is alleged 333 Capital started providing advice to Octaviar on January 22, when Mr Korda and fellow KordaMentha partner Mark Mentha met members of the board including chief financial officer David Anderson, Rolf Krecklenberg, who headed tourism arm Stella, and Craig White, who had replaced founder Michael King as chief executive.

This allegedly was followed immediately by a full board meeting where Mr Korda and Mr Mentha outlined a proposal to sell Stella and restructure Octaviar.

Ferrier Hodgson alleges that by this time Octaviar was already insolvent due to a cash-flow crisis and its failure to pay a $60 million tax bill.

It is alleged Mr Korda failed to tell the board the company was insolvent at 21 board meetings between January 22 and July 15.

In addition to attending board meetings, 333 Capital allegedly also ran a project called ”Cash is King”, which was supposed to monitor the cash flow of the group, help the company sell off assets, meet the corporate regulator and take part in a daily phone call with Octaviar’s lawyers, Freehills.

Ferrier Hodgson says that Octaviar would have gone into administration earlier but for 333 Capital’s advice, reducing the loss to investors in company notes and bonds. 333 Capital’s spokesman said the claim had been filed but not served, ”presumably in order to avoid the deadline under the statute of limitations”.

He said 333 Capital was helping Octaviar’s directors ”work through its issues”.

”To suggest that creditors would have been better off if the company was placed into administration is to stretch logic, common sense and statutory responsibilities beyond breaking point,” he said.

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Open-air Heidelberg site sold for $4.9 million

Construction of Caydon’s S.T.K building at 3 St Kilda Road is under way.An open-air car park at a busy Heidelberg junction – billed when it hit the market 14 months ago as being at Melbourne’s highest point – has sold to local developer Caydon and will now make way for a $150 million mixed-use project.
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The 3360-square-metre triangle-shaped block at 443 Upper Heidelberg Road is also bound by Burgundy Street and the Bell-Banksia Street link, about 10 kilometres from town.

Opposite the Austin and Mercy hospitals, and walking distance to both Eaglemont and Heidelberg train stations, the property was offloaded by a Fairfield GP who in 2004 paid a company in liquidation just $175,000 for it.

It sold for $4.9 million despite hitting the market last year with price expectations of more than $6 million.

Caydon plans to develop a mixed-use project on the site, with a medical complex and about 300 apartments – some configured as part of a hotel. Upper levels of any redevelopment would capitalise on 360-degree panoramic views capturing Port Phillip Bay, the You Yangs and the Yarra Valley.

Marketing agent John Castran of John H Castran said the site attracted interest from the medical sector, also being close to the Warringal Private Hospital.

In 2005, the City of Banyule council and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal rejected an application to replace 443 Upper Heidelberg Road with an 11-storey commercial building which would have included just 26 dwellings. In 2012, council valued the site at $2.77 million.

The purchase comes three months after Caydon launched a $200 million residential project, Ettaro, in East Brunswick.

Caydon has also recently started construction of its tallest project yet, the 26-level S.T.K building in St Kilda – the first major residential building approved by Planning Minister Matthew Guy in 2011.Spec project

Spec Property has applied to develop its biggest local project yet, in West Melbourne.

Spec is seeking permission from Mr Guy to replace a low-rise office at 15-31 Batman Street with a 32-level mixed-use building that will include 1023 square metres of commercial space, 299 flats and 249 car park bays.

The property, for years owner-occupied by scientific equipment manufacturing business Glass Expansion, was listed for sale last July without a permit and with price expectations of more than $10 million. Central Equity is the biggest developer in the immediate area, recently completing an apartment complex, Flagstaff Place, at 53 Batman Street.

Developer interest in the suburb has surged following a precinct structure plan encouraging high-rise buildings around the North Melbourne train station (which is actually in West Melbourne).

Elsewhere in Melbourne, Spec is replacing 96 Camberwell Road, Hawthorn East, with a residential complex, Elmington.

This site, for years occupied by a variety of small businesses, overlooks Fritsch Holzer Park. It is also developing a 20-level complex, Ella, in South Yarra.Going, going …

A prominent Hawthorn development site, being offloaded by interests associated with a successful business that ran from there for years, is expected to sell for about $25 million and make way for a village. The former Going Going Green site is spread over 7000 square metres at 196-202 Burwood Road and 1-9 Drill Street.

For sale with vacant possession and targeting developers, the land is expected to make way for a mixed-use complex in three or more buildings. Between the Glenferrie and Hawthorn train stations, the site has 170 metres of street frontage.

CBRE’s Scott Orchard and Mark Wizel are representing the former retail family, with Gross Waddell’s Michael Gross and Andrew Waddell.School sale

The Napthine government has offloaded another former education facility – pocketing $4.2 million for the former Doveton North Primary School at 25-35 Rowan Drive in Melbourne’s outer south-east.

The school was one of nine closed by the former ALP government and listed for sale by the Napthine government this year after a rezoning (some to allow for medium-density residential projects).

In this case, that rezoning was unnecessary, with Fitzroys’ Peter Weatherby and Dean Alexander selling the two-hectare Doveton North site to another school, Ilim College of Australia.

Mr Alexander said eight offers were received for the site.

The most valuable school within the portfolio, the former Brandon Park Secondary College in Wheelers Hill, sold earlier this month for $47.5 million to New Zealand-listed retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare. Savills, which sold that school, is expecting $9 million for another school in the Doveton area, at 64-70 Box Street.Dive right in

Meanwhile, on the coast in Anglesea – nearly two hours south-west of Melbourne – the Department of Treasury and Finance is selling a former school on behalf of the Department of Education – seeking $3 million.

The Camp Road block, not far from the Great Ocean Road, is expected to make way for a 20-plus lot subdivision. Ian Lawless and Marty Maher of Great Ocean Properties Anglesea are marketing the site. The school relocated to a new facility, on a cheaper inland site, in 2008.Controversial site

Boutique architect and builder Lustig & Moar – founded by Max Moar and his late father-in-law Ted Lustig in 1971 and now co-owned with his former wife Iris – has swooped on a controversial development site in Caulfield North.

Lustig & Moar is believed to be paying about $8 million for a collection of properties spread across 1307 square metres between 356-364 Orrong Road. The site was offered earlier this year with a permit for a 56-unit mixed-use complex and a ground-level supermarket.

The proposed development was opposed by locals who said such a medium-density apartment complex was out of character for the largely low-rise area.

Gross Waddell’s Michael Gross and Jonathan McCormack declined to comment when contacted.

Regulars on the BRW rich list, Iris and Max about seven years ago paid record prices for works by artists Albert Tucker, Brett Whiteley, Sidney Nolan and John Olsen. In the 1980s the family amassed a substantial portfolio of office towers, hotels and shopping centres.

A few years ago, the group offloaded a development site abutting the West Gate Freeway at 42-48 Balston Street, Southbank, now making way for an apartment complex called Marco.

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Protest in park hits at budget

MORE than 500 people are set to protest against the federal budget in Launceston today.
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The event, which starts at 11am in Prince’s Square, includes speakers ranging from the Salvation Army’s Kevin Lumb to Health and Community Services Union state secretary Tim Jacobson.

Co-organiser Nathan Greene said the peaceful protest was likely to draw people from all walks of life.

“The effects of the budget are widespread and not positive, so many people in Tasmania will be affected in a negative way,” he said.

“We have gone out of our way to make this representative of the community, not to push the party line. It’s good to see people get out there.”

Bass Liberal MHR Andrew Nikolic yesterday accused the Protest in the Park of being organised by Labor and the Greens.

He said he had received an email with a “thinly veiled demand to attend”.

“The speakers include Labor Senator Ann Urquhart and Greens Senator Peter Whish- Wilson, who were part of the Labor-Greens government that caused the debt and deficit disaster confronting Australia,” Mr Nikolic said.

“They were obviously given the courtesy, not afforded to me, of early advice about this so-called public event.”

Mr Greene said the protest was not affiliated with any political parties, although he acknowledged that some organisers were party members, and he said Mr Nikolic was emailed once council approvals were given for the event.

Palmer United Party senator- elect Jacqui Lambie was also invited to the event and has offered her support.

Mr Greene said a similar event was planned for August.

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Parliament Square workers exposed to asbestos

WORKERS on Hobart’s $100 million Parliament Square development have been exposed to asbestos, Tasmania’s workplace safety watchdog has found.
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Worksafe Tasmania has written to three workers concerned about how asbestos was removed from the site, which is behind Parliament House.

Investigations are continuing but Worksafe has told the workers it wanted to inform them of the finding as early as possible.

“The workers concerned were anxious to receive advice on the issue as soon as possible and they have now been notified of this conclusion,” a Worksafe spokeswoman said.

“The investigation is ongoing and has revealed a number of issues that require further examination.”

Union members protested at the site yesterday, calling on developer Citta to meet with them.

“Citta Property Group have a moral responsibility to these workers for failing to provide them with a safe workplace,” Unions Tasmania secretary Kevin Harkins said.

A spokesman for Citta said the issue was one for demolition contractor Macquarie Builders.

“Citta hasn’t been directly involved in this issue and doesn’t have details about the Worksafe investigation,” the spokesman said.

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