Cameron rises from the retail ashes
THERE were some big stories over the festive season. So incendiary were Kochie's breastfeeding allegations that they nearly engulfed two entire 24-hour news cycles.
The hot weather also dominated the headlines. It is a phenomenon which never ceases to amaze, occurring as it does with an uncanny precision almost every summer.
On the finance front, things were humming. The intrepid raid on that greenie in the bush, the bloke who issued the fraudulent ANZ press release, saved the honour of the market. Such behaviour could not go unpunished. Here was an assault on the market's integrity, said someone from Goldman Sachs.
Corporate activity, too, was ablaze. Look no further than the heroic sharemarket raid on Fairfax - the publisher of this journal - by Singo, Mark Carnegie, Geoff Dixon and Brian Westlake. They amassed a powerful 0.15 per cent stake.
Amid these earth-shattering events of the summer was a little story about Deloitte and the retail magnate Jan Cameron.
Deloitte, it said, was thinking about running an insolvent trading action against Cameron. Yes, really, the very same Deloitte whose administrators are now selling Cameron's Retail Adventures stores back to her - out of administration and freshly shucked of debts.
One of the best things about going bust is that you can accidentally get rid of all your creditors in one fell swoop. In the case of Deloitte and Jan, there is $110 million owing to assorted suppliers. Let's not forget the good old Australian Tax Office, of course.
Cameron bobbed into public purview in 2006 when she floated the clothier Kathmandu on the market. Flush with $250 million in folding stuff, she re-emerged on the retail scene in April 2009 by forking out $85 million for the Australian Discount Retail chain.
This is the owner of the venerable Go-Lo, Sam's Warehouse, Chickenfeed and Crazy Clark's stores. It had fallen into the warm embrace of receivers and Cameron pounced, paying $80 million for the business. She injected another $80 million along the way.
The numbers in this story are a tad nonchalant, as Cameron and her auditors KPMG didn't actually get around to filing financial accounts for Retail Adventures over the ensuing four years. Perhaps they had an exemption.
Anyway, bewildered creditors got to witness their debut set of Retail Adventures financial statements only last December, two months after the thing bit the dust.
They claim they would have liked to have been privy to this information before their trading partner collapsed in a smoking wreck. They might not have extended such forgiving terms, they say. Curmudgeonly lot they are.
Deloitte had already been called in to Retail Adventures a couple of months before its demise in October. ANZ had pulled the plug.
One of the first things they did when it went under was to issue Cameron's DSG group a licence to keep Retail Misadventures - sorry, Adventures - trading. The terms of this deal are confidential.
It traded on. ANZ got its money back. Deloitte was on the clock. And then a strange little story appeared in the New Year saying Deloitte was ruminating about an insolvent trading action. Yeah, sure! Even Hans Christian Andersen couldn't write a fairy tale like that.
The latest news is a proposal (Deed of Company Arrangement) to sell the business back to Cameron, minus $110 million in debts. And the sale price? It's $72 million, they say. What they don't say is how much of that might be cash.
You see, Deloitte seems to have transferred $70 million in Retail Adventures's stock to Cameron's company DSG. Perhaps she can buy back Retail Adventures with its own stock! Chickenfeed!
There'll be a fleet of Bentleys for the boys from Bentleys. Let their creditors from MFS drive Matchbox cars.
We are looking at the document Octaviar Administration Pty Ltd, and the pallets of wads of backsheesh ripped out by the liquidators from Bentleys Queensland and their indispensable lawyers, Henry Davis York.
Lest you were wondering how a gang of accountants could possibly take $17 million in fees out of the corpse of Octaviar, nee MFS, in just two years, wonder no more.
It is because they can. There is nobody stopping them. The sky or the state of Octaviar is the limit, whatever comes first.
Back in the day, if Ned Kelly had known about this lurk, this liquidation racket, there is no way he would have gone into bushrangering.
He would have partnered with the banks, rather than robbing them. Instead of riding a horse he could have owned a stable of the finest, held through a tax-effective offshore trust structure subsidiary of his insolvency practice, Edward Kelly & Partners. Kelly was definitely in the wrong game.
In light of the deluge of hard news over the summer, it was understandable that an announcement by the Bundesbank was rather buried - that is, that Germany would repatriate 300 tonnes of gold from New York and Paris. A few days later it became evident that the airlift would be staged over seven years; it would be postponed, in other words. Would it really happen? That stoked the embers of gold bugs, though it failed to hit the news.
Finally, to a house ad. In Monday's newspaper and in BusinessDay online we reveal the real story behind ASIC's big sting on Macquarie Bank this week.