Property developer Frank de Vries fails to stave off bankruptcy

Wellington businessman and property developer, Frank de Vries has been bankrupted over a $5.6 million loan to finance company St Laurence Lending.

Mr de Vries owned several self- storage facilities including Storage King and specialised in refurbishing larger commercial properties.

St Laurence Lending is part of the failed Wellington-based St Laurence finance group which was put in receivership in April last year owing investors $212m.

The High Court at Wellington declared Mr de Vries bankrupt last week after he failed to show that he had any means to pay the debt to St Laurence Lending or make a reasonable part payment.

Associate Judge David Gendall said Mr de Vries did not dispute that he owned the money, but argued it would not be just and equitable to declare him bankrupt.

He also asked to be given time to restructure the financial affairs of 26 companies he controlled, which he suggested could clear the debt.

The hearing had been adjourned for one day on March 21 to give Mr de Vries a chance to file any formal opposition to the bankruptcy application and an affidavit of his financial position.

Mr de Vries's lawyer David Bleier requested a three-week adjournment for Mr de Vries to prepare a compromise settlement.

However, Judge Gendall said Mr de Vries had offered $20,000 in full and final settlement in February, which was rejected, although it appeared an offer of about $200,000 might have been acceptable. No higher offer was made.

Mr de Vries had failed to provide the court with any verified information about his personal financial position as requested other than a statement from his accountant that "he does not own any assets of significant value" and "the property he lives in and the car he drives are both owned by a Family Trust", Judge Gendall said.

Mr de Vries had also not given any explanation why he had not taken any earlier steps to resolve the issue with St Laurence Lending despite a summary judgment order for nearly $5.5m made against him on November 2 and the bankruptcy notice being serviced on December 21.

Mr de Vries had ample opportunity to enter into an arrangement with St Laurence Lending to repay the debt but did not attempt to engage an insolvency consultant till the eleventh hour, Judge Gendall said.