Leitch resigns from top job
A SOUTHERN Downs cattleman owed money by Killarney Abattoir doubts creditors will ever receive a single cent.
Livestock producer David Cory is the first to admit the amount he is owed by the Leitch Pastoral Group company pales beside the debt due to many in his community.
But what irks him is the legal implications of the group’s move to place its three meat processing and wholesale entities into voluntary administration.
“In my opinion going into voluntary administration immediately absolves the group’s owner of any responsibility to pay his debts,” Mr Cory said.
“He is effectively off the hook; he gets to keep his other assets, because this move only relates to three trading companies.
“Meanwhile there are people in our community who are struggling to make ends meet because of his actions.”
Leitch Pastoral Group director Dudley Leitch put his three meat entities, Killarney Abattoir, Pittsworth Food Processors and Condamine River Meats, into voluntary administration on Monday.
The move came almost four weeks after Mr Leitch ordered a temporary stand down of employees and suspension of kills at his two meatworks.
More than 230 employees from both plants are now officially out of a job.
Meanwhile Circular for Creditors documents obtained by the Daily News this week indicate the three Leitch Pastoral Group companies owe more than $7 million to more than 200 stakeholders.
Mr Cory, who has sold cattle through Killarney Abattoir since it opened 30 years ago, said he was frustrated by the legal processes protecting the corporate world and in this case Dudley Leitch from “personally honouring debts”.
“An owner can just walk away and leave receivers to sort it out the best way they can and all the while none of his other assets, be it rural property in the region or gold mines overseas, are in the equation,” Mr Cory said.
“I am owed about $6000 for cattle I sold the week before the works closed, but I don’t think I have a chance in hell of getting anything.”
“If I were in Dudley Leitch’s position I would feel embarrassed for the rest of my life if I didn’t clear my name.”
For the second generation cattleman the shadow of debt clouding Killarney this week heralds the end of an era when deals were done on a handshake.
“We’ve sold cattle for a century in good faith we would be paid, but it’s changed now,” Mr Cory said.
Jim Weier is another Killarney local who is struggling to make ends meet in the aftermath of the Killarney closure.
The livestock carrier, who worked nights at the abattoir’s load out facility, has lost wages as well as his core customer.
“I carted for Killarney Abattoir for years – I was doing between 3000 and 4000km a week taking beef to the north coast,” Mr Weier said.
But that contract came to a halt almost the same day his meatworks job was suspended.
To date – wages and employee entitlements aside – the carrying business he runs with his wife Geraldine is owed $38,900 by Killarney Abattoir.
“We’re pretty shattered and don’t think we’ll get paid,” Mr Weier said.
“Yet there is no point getting angry, I just have to find another job and work a little harder to make up for what we’ve lost.
“What hurts us is the company can afford to pay the administrators $485 per hour, but they can’t afford to pay people who have worked for them for years.”
However the Killarney businessman believes in many ways he is more fortunate than most as he has already secured work for his carrying business through a southern meatworks.
“It’s a bit further to travel, but it’s a job,” Mr Weier said.
Other livestock producers owed money also questioned whether as unsecured creditors they would ever see any funds owed to them.
A local producer, who preferred not to be identified, said there was little reason for creditors to remain optimistic.
“These trading companies that have gone into voluntary administration don’t own anything; there is no bricks and mortar there,” he said.
“There is very little for them to recover in the way of money.
“I think if employees don’t get paid the government steps in to help, but when it’s small business you are on your own.”
Despite concerns about recovering debts, all three creditors have said they will attend the March 11 meeting organised by the companies’ voluntary administrators Grant Thornton.
The meeting will be held at the administrators’ Brisbane offices at 11am.
The Daily News can also reveal that Dudley Leitch has quit as a director of Kings Minerals, the mining giant which helped make his fortune, elevating him to the state’s 100 richest list.
A two-line statement issued by Kings Minerals chairman Norm Seckold on Wednesday stated Mr Leitch had resigned “due to personal reasons”.
It is understood Mr Leitch is unlikely to receive a payout but walks away from Kings Minerals with a share portfolio worth an estimated $5.7m, despite recent falls in the share price.
Administrator Michael McCann said it was not uncommon for company directors to resign from other positions if certain of their interests were subject to intervention.