The Courier-Mail

Sinking ship refloated

- Anthony Marx

A MURRAY Owen-owned and operated marine engineerin­g company with a history of failures is trying to get back into business in Brisbane.

AQUEENSLAN­D marine industry player with a history of company failures is trying to get back into business in Brisbane.

Marine Engineerin­g Consultant­s Pty Ltd, which was owned and operated by Murray Owen (illustrate­d) at the Gold Coast City Marina for nearly 20 years, went bust in late November after numerous creditors sought court orders for its wind up.

Liquidator Chris Baskervill­e determined that the firm, which traded as MEC Yachts, collapsed with $7.85m in debts and may have been insolvent since August 2019.

In a recent report to creditors, Baskervill­e said the company was in the process of building a 12m aluminium catamaran for the owners of the Heron Island resort but the vessel was relocated to a Brisbane boatyard just before his appointmen­t.

“My preliminar­y view is this vessel was moved so that the director (Owen) could continue to work on the vessel under a different entity,’’ the report said.

Sure enough, records show that Owen has an intact entity, MEC

Brisbane Pty Ltd, which changed its name from MEC Whitsunday­s Pty Ltd just three days after Baskervill­e was appointed. That’s not all. Baskervill­e told City Beat this week that he is actively investigat­ing the fact that the still-trading company is now the third incarnatio­n of the MEC business.

In addition, Baskervill­e flagged possible court action against Owen to recover more than $2m and, as part of that, said he may seek to subject him to a public examinatio­n.

Among the money sought is an outstandin­g loan of $757,829 that Owen allegedly owes the failed company but has declined to pay back since December, Baskervill­e said.

He’s also hoping to claw back about $360,000 in related party transactio­ns and another $380,000 in unfair preference payments.

His report reveals that an independen­t expert has been retained to produce a formal

insolven cy study, with a potential $1.1m or more to be recouped if an insolvent trading claim can be made.

The report also found that the business had a negative net asset position every year since 2016 and total liabilitie­s more than doubled over that time to $4.6m.

Baskervill­e described Owen as “completely uncooperat­ive’’ and noted that, after representa­tives from his office were initially barred from accessing his Gold Coast marina office, he had to post security guards there.

“Our investigat­ions are ongoing and this will probably take a couple of years to resolve,’’ he told us.

In an odd twist, one of the creditors, Reel Action Sports Fishing Pty Ltd, has sued Baskervill­e to retrieve a halfbuilt shell of a vessel in his possession.

That firm, formerly known as Bribie Island Charters, had ordered a 17m catamaran in a near $2m contract in 2017.

Baskervill­e is defending that case in the Brisbane Supreme Court.

Owen, who resides in a $2m home acquired on Hope Island in 2017, did not return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.

Records reveal he and his missus also still own an industrial property in the Gold Coast marine precinct bought for $1.2m in 2013. Before the latest debacle, another Owen company, Mjowen Pty Ltd, collapsed in 2017 owing $1.43m, including nearly $815,000 to unsecured creditors.

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