Fi­nal chap­ter looms for book stores

Townsville Bulletin - - Investor - Martin Rasini

ONE or both of Townsville’s An­gus & Robert­son book­stores may close within days fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion by ad­min­is­tra­tors on Tues­day to re­duce out­lets across Aus­tralia and re­struc­ture the book-sell­ing busi­ness.

The two stores are at Castle­town and Stock­land Aitken­vale and em­ploy about eight peo­ple who yes­ter­day were wait­ing to learn of their fate.

The two out­lets are among 141 na­tion­wide op­er­ated un­der the An­gus & Robert­son and Borders badges di­rectly by brands owner RED­Group Re­tail, which was placed in ad­min­is­tra­tion on Fe­bru­ary 17.

A fur­ther 52 An­gus & Robert­son stores op­er­ate in Aus­tralia as in­de­pen­dent fran­chisee-owned busi­nesses and are not un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion.

RED­Group also has some 90 book out­lets in New Zealand as well as in­ter­ests in Sin­ga­pore.

Ad­min­is­tra­tor Steve Sher­man, of Fer­rier Hodg­son, told cred­i­tors on Tues­day clo­sure de­ci­sions would be made within 72 hours and best­per­form­ing stores would re­main open.

Mr Sher­man told cred­i­tors the com­pany owed $ 169.8 mil­lion, in­clud­ing $ 7.8 mil­lion in en­ti­tle­ments to its 2500 staff, a $ 118 mil­lion se­cured debt to an arm of pri­vate equity group Pa­cific Equity Part­ners whose va­lid­ity was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, and $ 44 mil­lion to un­se­cured cred­i­tors such as pub­lish­ers.

Mr Sher­man, who told cred­i­tors the debt fig­ure was likely to grow, has formed a com­mit­tee of cred­i­tors in­clud­ing shop­ping cen­tre owner West­field, pub­lish­ers and a staff and Na­tional Union of Work­ers rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

A fur­ther cred­i­tors’ meet­ing is set down for March 24.

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