Cookie company crumbles over unpaid taxes and super
The Byron Bay Cookie Company is in serious financial difficulties, with its owners appointing administrators and sacking staff.
Just over a week ago, the tax office lodged court papers to wind up the company over unpaid debts to the tune of $1.2 million.
Company employees confirmed the news, which comes less than a fortnight after the luxury cookie-maker cracked Hollywood when its gluten-free sticky date and ginger cookies were selected for Oscar nominee goodie bags.
Court documents filed by the tax office in the Federal Court on February 28 show the gourmet biscuit maker has not paid various taxes totalling $950,000, and employee superannuation dating back to 2010.
The signs of financial trouble appeared two years ago when employees confronted management over unpaid superannuation.
The company, owned by Slater International, was threatened with being wound up by Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer in September last year in the Federal Court, but the case was dismissed.
Director Jacqueline Schurig said she expected the company to survive and "sees this as an opportunity to restructure its manufacturing division".
The company has appointed John Vouris and Bradley Tonks as administrators. They have confirmed the business will continue to trade during the process.
A senior employee retrenched today spoke under the condition of anonymity, saying he only discovered last week that no super had been paid, but that he held hopes for the future of the company.
"I know they're cutting costs, trying to trade through, to do what they can to get a buyer for the company," he said. "It's a good brand, it has great products, and I'm sure someone will take the company and turn it around."
The company also owes its packaging supplier $33,000.
"In November 2011, we started having trouble collecting money, and management said the owner is successful and wealthy so don't worry," said Ray Cranfield, director of Australian Packaging. "Their made-to-order goods are just sitting in our warehouse."
The gourmet biscuit producer’s banker, NAB, has security over all its assets in return for the loan. NAB are expected to appoint receivers and take control of the business at any time. The bank declined to comment.
Despite the trouble, the company was talking up plans to take its franchising plans global just two days before the ATO moved to wind it up, apparently buoyed by its inclusion in the $50,000 goodie bags for nominees at this year's Academy Awards.
"We thought the timing was right to extend our retail footprint in Australia and abroad," said Gordon Slater, the chairman of Slater International, in a statement.
The 23-year-old business has a turnover of more than $13 million and about 100 employees.
The matter will be heard in the Federal Court on April 12. The first creditors meeting is on March 19.
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