'Show us the money, Dudley'

LEITCH Pastoral Group’s three meat entities, which went into voluntary administration this week, owe in excess of $7 million to more than 200 claimants, including Warwick livestock agents, cattle producers, super funds and government bodies.

Ironically at the top of list of creditors is none other than Leitch Pastoral Group director Dudley Leitch himself, who is listed on Circular to Creditors documents obtained by the Daily News, as being owed $2.25 million.

The circulars were sent out this week by Brisbane-based accounting firm Grant Thornton, who assumed control of Killarney Abattoir, Pittsworth Food Processors and Condamine River Meats after the three businesses were placed in voluntary administration on Monday.

While Mr Leitch himself is the largest single claimant, the list includes another $946,000 relating to amounts owed internally between the three entities, putting the amount owed to business creditors closer to $3.8 million.

But the full amount of liabilities is still not known, with former abattoir employees and Leitch Pastoral Group financiers lining up ahead of business creditors in the queue of those with a call on the troubled enterprise.

One outraged Warwick businessman described the fact Mr Leitch was individually listed as “preposterous”.

The creditor, who would prefer not to be identified, believes every claimant should have priority over Mr Leitch.

“The fact he is listed as a creditor is incredulous. He should be the very last one able to claim anything from this,” he said.

“It’s also disappointing Leitch, who was recently listed in the Sunday papers as on the nation’s top 100 rich list, has made decisions which have had a devastating financial effect on so many people.

“Now like all failed businessmen he is finding blame with everyone but himself.”

Stock and station agents across the Darling Downs, who supplied cattle to the Leitch entities, make up a significant portion of the creditors, together being owed more than $900,000.

George and Fuhrmann manager Matt Grayson yesterday admitted deep frustration over the situation.

“Dudley Leitch personally rang me two months ago and guaranteed we would be paid,” Mr Grayson said.

The varied list of creditors includes Pittsworth electricians, Southern Downs cattle producers, child support agencies, livestock carriers, local tyre companies, Telstra and even locksmiths.

One of the larger debts – spread over several creditors – is a superannuation account of more than $307,500, further substantiating claims by Killarney Abattoir workers made in the Daily News in February.

A long-time meatworker, who spoke up about his unpaid super, said the list had revealed a “mind-blowing” debt owed to employees.

“I thought Leitch probably owed about $100,000, but then I get this letter and find out the bloke owes $265,000 to my fund alone,” he said.

“As an employee I received additional information from Grant Thornton saying I’d get paid, but it could take up to eight or 10 months.

“My wife and I both worked at Killarney Abattoir, overnight we went from double income to no income. We’re relieved to know what’s happening, but there won’t be a reprieve anytime soon.”

Creditor documents also indicate the companies owe insurer Workcover Queensland $584,000 and the government’s Levies Revenue Service $78,000.

Child support agencies are also ranked among the list of unhonoured obligations with the companies failing to forward more than $3000 in child support garnered from employee wages.

Grant Thornton director Michael McCann, who is the appointed administrator, said the Circular for Creditors was the first step in a process aimed at affecting the best possible return for those owed money by the companies.

The next step is a meeting organised for creditors by the companies’ administrators in Brisbane on March 11.

But this week’s creditor documents cast doubt on whether those owned money would see much in the way of recovered funds.

The circular states the companies’ primary assets are receivables due to them, which are actually secured to Leitch Pastoral lender Rural Bank Ltd against the group’s substantial loans.

Employees have first claim, followed by Rural Bank, then those individuals and businesses owed money.

“The return to unsecured creditors of the three companies is doubtful and uncertain at best,” the circular states.

The creditor documents also reveal the three Leitch Pastoral Group’s entities now in voluntary administration could pay upwards of $225,000 to accounting firm Grant Thornton for their work resolving the crisis.

This initial estimate is based on a per hour rate of $485 for Grant Thornton director Michael McCann.

One of the more cynical creditors yesterday said the fact the administrators could guarantee their own payment was yet another gut-wrenching blow for those desperately waiting on Leitch Pastoral payments.


Abattoir workers formally terminated

Also receiving correspondence from Grant Thornton this week are now-former employees of the Killarney and Pittsworth abattoirs, numbering 230.

They too have received the creditors’ listings, along with formal advice of the termination of their employment.

“As you are aware, the Company had ceased to operate its business and you have already been ‘stood down’ for a period,” the administrators’ letters read.

“I regret to advise that after a review of the Company’s circumstances I have no other alternative than to terminate your employment, effective immediately.”

The Grant Thornton advice goes on to state that former employees “rank as a priority ahead of claims by ordinary unsecured creditors and ahead of the secured creditor (Rural Bank) in respect to the assets (of the company).”

The first meeting for creditors will be held at the offices of Grant Thornton Chartered Accounts in Adelaide Street, Brisbane on March 11 starting at 11am.

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