'Shaggers' crank up the heat on Planet Platinum
IT WASN'T just the lack of airconditioning raising a sweat in a windowless backroom of Melbourne strip club Showgirls Bar 20 on Friday morning.
As they filed into a dim, red-walled room decorated with shaded chandeliers, wood panelling and pictures of scantily clad women, shareholders in the King Street club's owner, Planet Platinum, were confronted with the news that the company had been suspended from the stock exchange - again.
Minority shareholders, who have formed a shareholder action group called the "Shaggers", used the annual meeting to deliver some of their own bad news to the company's controlling shareholder, John Trimble.
They overwhelmingly voted down the remuneration report, earning Planet Platinum a second strike and forcing a spill of the board at a meeting within 90 days.
Mr Trimble will be allowed to vote his 80 per cent of the company at that meeting, so the spill will almost certainly fail.
And there is not much of a board to spill. Planet Platinum was suspended from the stock exchange on Friday because ASX rules require three directors and one, Nick Pitliangas, resigned from the board the previous day, leaving the company with only Mr Trimble and former St Kilda mayor John Callanan.
The company, which is also the landlord of the Daily Planet brothel in Elsternwick, resumed ASX trade just last month, after being suspended for four months, when it filed an overdue financial report.
Those finances also gave little cheer to shareholders and management.
Profit dived 74 per cent in the six months to the end of December, to just $63,000, and auditor Melanie Leydin raised doubts the business was a going concern.
But Mr Trimble, who is the nephew of the late crime figure Robert Trimbole and Planet Platinum's chairman and chief executive, refused to wilt at Friday's meeting despite the heat, the angry shareholders and the bad financial news.
He said the company had "another horrid year", thanks to a long-running stoush with Victoria Police. The club's liquor licence was revoked in May 2011, but the decision was overturned by the Victorian Supreme Court two months later.
"We've taken a hell of a slam ... but we're back on track," he told shareholders.
"The past three years have been chaotic nonsense - not from a business perspective, from outside avenues."
A consistent theme of Shaggers' questioning was a $2.6 million loan, owed by Mr Trimble's private company Metropolis City Promotions and secured against his personal assets.
Did the board give permission to refinance the loan when Mr Trimble's company Clover Dale, dipped into insolvency in 2011?
"I dunno," Mr Trimble said. "Did we? Nope."
Shareholders put pressure on Mr Callanan to call in the loan, which was first made in 2003 so that Mr Trimble could pay out the mortgage over the Daily Planet and which has been repeatedly extended until it now falls due in 2014.
"The only way we're going to get it paid back is to pay a dividend," Mr Trimble said.
What are the prospects of a dividend?
"There's no prospect of a dividend."
In a small victory for the Shaggers, Mr Callanan agreed to review the loan's due date at the next board meeting.