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Horse trading in trademarks

Horse trading in trademarks

Nicole Kidman-endorsed Swisse Wellness has mortgaged its famous brand names to a tax haven subsidiary of Goldman Sachs to secure a high-interest $100 million loan.

CBD can reveal that Goldman Sachs Investments Holdings (Asia) Limited, which gives as its address in an industrial estate in sunny Mauritius, has registered a claim to more than 30 of Swisse's brands, slogans and logos.

Official databases show that Swisse's much-advertised logo and its relentlessly upbeat slogans "You'll feel better on Swisse" and "Celebrate life every day!" are among trademarks ready to be hoovered up by Goldie's famous blood funnel should Swisse fall behind on its payments.

Also part of the mortgage registration blitz, which started in the middle of last month and was still going on Tuesday last week, are some of Swisse's more obscure trademarks, such as Benefishoil (can't imagine why that one never caught on) and CBD's personal fave, "Sexiest Tan Alive!"

But key product line names are also mortgaged, including Trimshot and the Ricky Ponting-endorsed Ultivite.

There is also a general charge over all the assets of the company and another over a car (make and model not disclosed).

All this is security for the line of credit Swisse has secured from Goldman Sach's Special Situations Group, which invests the vampire squid's own money in mid-size companies. It's expensive dosh, costing Swisse interest in the low teens, but a quick look at the company's balance sheet shows ... nothing, as Swisse is now more than nine months late in filing its 2012 accounts.

CEO Radek Sali dropped some 2013 numbers earlier this week covering revenue and earnings but didn't disclose a profit figure or give a sense of the company's assets and liabilities.

Failing to file accounts is a crime, and while corporate regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has so far yet to take any concrete action against scoff-law Swisse, it is said to be aware of the issue.

Bear in mind that a woman who fell pregnant on the day Swisse's accounts were due would already have given birth.

Did CBD mention pregnancy? Swisse has a range of potions and lotions for that called Pregcel.

The Pregcel name is, of course, mortgaged to Goldman Sachs.

Black and blue

Fancy paying $540 to listen to an ex-con talk? That's how much the Public Knowledge Forum is charging to attend a yakfest starring Conrad Black, pictured, also known as Baron Black of Crossharbour or Prisoner number 18330-424.

Strangely, Black's official bio on the forum's website omits to mention his stint in a US prison for fraud after being found guilty of embezzling from his media empire, Hollinger.

Instead, the blurb waxes lyrical about Black's biographies of Maurice Duplessis, Franklin D Roosevelt, and Richard M Nixon (who, convicted felon Black recently insisted, boasts a record "that puts him very close to the nation's greatest presidents").

And there's also no mention of Black's other great achievement: taking control of BusinessDay's owner, Fairfax Media, in 1994.

Michael Smith, who lasted only a few months as editor of The Age under the Black regime, wrote about the experience for the ABC's Drum website in 2007.

"Conrad Black's contribution to Australian newspaper publishing was historic and cannot be overestimated," Smith said.

"He introduced changes that caused The Age's circulation to plummet 10 per cent almost overnight. No one has ever managed that before or since."

Black is to appear alongside Annabel Crabb, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and Atlantic correspondent James Fallows at the Sydney Opera House on November 3.

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