Queensland construction industry creditors have been getting the pineapple – either end is a daunting prospect – since at least 2013 when the still unfolding collapse of Walton Constructions commenced, and if this week’s events in the state of committees is any guide, restive grow the natives.
On Tuesday, trade creditors of mid-tier building firm Cullen Group turned out in droves at the first meeting with a very clear intent. The incumbent liquidators were to be punted. It made no difference that they’d conducted themselves impeccably since being appointed on December 22. They were the directors’ choice. They had to go.
From reports of the meeting it sounds like the incumbents – Mark Pearce and Michael Dullaway of Pearce & Heers – sniffed the breeze early and acquiesced without objection. That at least made it easy for their replacement, Menzies Advisory’s Michael Caspaney.
How Caspaney came to get the gig is interesting. Being Melbourne-based Caspaney it seems lives far enough away to satisfy Cullen Group’s mainly Gold Coast-based unsecureds that there’s no relationship with Cullen Group director Wayne Cullen. At the same time he possesses the advantage of being Queensland born which might go a long when trust is in short supply.
How Caspaney will investigate the collapse however is an open question. Cullen Group’s liabilities are likely to rise above the $22.5 million reported on Tuesday and FTI’s John Park and Kelly-Anne Trenfield are in control of various real property assets, having been appointed receiver managers on December 23. SiN also understands that all the major debtors are disputed and subject to counter claims.
Assuming he identifies significant and viable claims, Caspaney may well be asked to file a supplementary 533 report for ASIC’s benefit. He might even be invited to apply for a grant from the Assetless Administration Fund (AAF).
Perhaps litigation funders will sniff a quid and open the chequebook. Whatever happens, there’ll be a horde of hardworking unsecureds anticipating results that don’t involve diluting already paltry returns so professional litigants can profit. It sounds a challenging assignment and Caspaney has been bold by opening an office in Brisbane, where the natives are restless, and expectant.