Signature creditors in dark
Creditors of Manawatu's failed Signature Homes franchise are again in the dark about the progress of the liquidation, a situation they can do little about without funding costly court action.
Karacrombie Enterprises, of which Stephen Crombie was sole director and the main shareholder, placed itself into liquidation in November 2010. Ohakune-based Lance Gilbertson, from Insolvency Services, was appointed liquidator.
Mr Gilbertson has repeatedly failed to file his reports with the Companies Office on time.
Updates in August last year and March this year were posted late and, according to a notice on the Companies Office website, Mr Gilbertson is overdue in filing his latest update.
Previous reports have identified 97 creditors, many of which were small trade businesses, owed a total of $1,383,366.
Those spoken to by the Manawatu Standard haven't heard anything from Mr Gilbertson, who has not responded to attempts to contact him. The last time the Standard heard from him was in November last year when he refused to say how much he had collected in liquidator's fees or to comment about a possible claw-back for creditors.
This was mentioned in his August 2011 update when he said he had identified assets "that may be recoverable" and was waiting on advice to see if the recovery was legal and economically viable.
Creditors were not keen to part with any more money and the idea hasn't been mentioned since.
Absolute Tilers owner Brian Bayley thought it was a "joke" and said he had heard nothing from Mr Gilbertson about it. The only time he heard or saw anything from Signature Homes was when he saw advertisements for the company on television.
A Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry spokesman said the Companies Act allowed for creditors to apply to the court to remove liquidators but such action could be "expensive and time-consuming", and Karacrombie creditors don't appear keen to begin such action.
However, new legislation awaiting its second reading before Parliament - the Insolvency Practitioners Bill - would require better reporting by insolvency practitioners, the spokesman said.
Any "delinquent" practitioners could be barred from undertaking such work should the bill become law. At present, the Companies Office could remind those who failed to communicate with creditors in a regular or timely manner, of their obligations.
Mr Gilbertson's appointment as Karacrombie liquidator raised eyebrows, with the company folding itself days before a liquidation application from Pritchard's Kitchens and Designs and Pritchard's Joiners owner Darryl Pritchard could be heard in the High Court.
Companies Office records show Mr Gilbertson lists a Whanganui address for service, the same address given by Bill Ritchie, formerly of Cambridge, for a liquidation he managed. One of Mr Ritchie's companies, Global Development Consultants, had been engaged in consultancy work for Karacrombie. Signature Homes Ltd's chief executive Phillip Howe told the Standard two years ago it wanted Mr Ritchie to run the new company which was to be set up in the region.
Mr Gilbertson had denied having links with Mr Ritchie, aside from knowing him from Auckland.
Mr Gilbertson said his use of the Whanganui address was a mistake.
So far no new Signature Homes franchise has been set up in Manawatu.
And it appears Mr Gilbertson is no longer taking on insolvency work on company liquidations or receiverships, with the registrar of companies unaware of him accepting any new work since late 2010.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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