The Victorian government has lodged a claim over George Calombaris’ private assets in a stunning revelation in the wake of his restaurant empire’s demise.
The ‘devastated’ celebrity chef placed 22 companies in the Made Establishment Group into voluntary administration on Monday, with advisory and investment firm KordaMentha appointed.
Calombaris’ financial woes spilled over into his personal assets amid revelations Victoria’s Commissioner of State Revenue made a claim against him in January for unpaid land tax on a holiday house at Safety Beach on the Mornington Peninsula.
George Calombaris is being sued by Victoria’s Commissioner of State Revenue for unpaid land tax on a holiday house at Safety Beach on the Mornington Peninsula
Calombaris bought the holiday house for $580,000 in 2013, and it sold for around $1million three weeks ago
The four-bedroom home has an expansive outdoor area entertaining area a stone’s throw from the beach
The claim comes just three weeks after the property, which is owned by Trical Beach Pty Ltd, directed by the chef’s wife Natalie Tricarico, was sold for around $1million.
Calombaris has also advertised his five-bedroom Toorak home for sale, with both properties being mortgaged to ANZ.
It comes as 12 of Calombaris’ Melbourne restaurants and venues stopped trading immediately after Monday’s announcement, with about 400 workers losing their jobs.
Administrators Craig Shepard and Leanne Chesser hope to find people willing to buy into Calombaris’ businesses quickly, improving the chances that some staff are retained by the new operators.
‘We could have them ready to go by Monday,’ Mr Shepard told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Chef Matt Wilkinson has already expressed interest in buying the Crofter Dining Room where he presides.
Chairs on the tables at Calombaris’ Hellenic Republic restaurant, which closed it’s doors on Monday
A closed sign posted at the Jimmy Grants restaurant in the emporium in Melbourne’s CBD on Tuesday
The administrators will spend about a month preparing a report on Made Establishment, but creditors will meet for the first time next Thursday.
Employees have been paid outstanding wages and superannuation up to Sunday, the administrators have been told.
KordaMentha will verify that is the case, with Mr Shepard stressing any annual leave, long serve leave and severance entitlements will also need to be checked.
If the business cannot pay those entitlements through recovered funds, workers may be forced to apply for what they are owed through a Fair Work guarantee scheme.
‘The message we’re saying to employees is they don’t need to navigate that, we’ll do all that for them,’ Mr Shepard said.
Australia’s hospitality union – the United Workers Union – and the Victorian Trades Hall Council are determined to help workers get what they are owed.
Head of the Victorian Trades Hall Council legal centre Oanh Tran said they are particularly concerned about any workers who were on temporary migrant visas.
‘Now not only have they lost their jobs, they have potentially lost the ability to remain in Australia,’ she told AAP.
‘There are going to be at least some and probably many who are in that really vulnerable position.’
Neither KordaMentha or the unions know yet how many workers are on those visas, but the union says at least one has approached them anonymously.
Calombaris took to Instagram on Monday evening to say he was ‘devastated’ by the company decision
Calombaris was a judge and host on the hit Network Ten show MasterChef from 2009 until 2019. Pictured with co-hosts Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston
The only part of Made Establishment excluded from administration is a chain of four Yo-Chi outlets.
The former MasterChef host on Monday evening said he was ‘devastated’ by the decision.
‘It is with deep sadness and regret that today MAdE Establishment has been placed into voluntary administration,’ he wrote on social media.
‘To all my team, I truly regret it has come to this. On a personal note, the last few months have been the most challenging I have ever faced.
‘At this time, while personally devastated, I remain thankful to my family, friends, the MAdE team, our loyal and regular customers.
‘I am so sorry all our collective efforts have not provided to be enough. I’m gutted that it’s come to this.’
Timeline of Calombaris’ woes
MAY 15, 2014 – The Department of Health investigates after diners who ate at the Hellenic Republic at Kew fell ill. It is later confirmed norovirus affected about 100 people
APRIL, 2017 – It’s revealed about $2.6 million in back payments were dished out to 162 workers employed by Made Establishment because of payroll ‘discrepancies’ dating back to 2011.
MAY 10, 2017 – Calombaris is charged with assault over a fight with a 19-year-old at an A-League grand final between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory in Sydney a few days earlier
MAY 16, 2017 – Melbourne man David Peter Schreuder sues the Hellenic Republic restaurant and Made Establishment group over the norovirus encephalitis outbreak
AUGUST 17, 2017 – The chef pleads guilty to assault over the A-League incident
SEPTEMBER 8, 2017 – He hands in his Melbourne Victory No. 1 ticket due to the assault
OCTOBER 20, 2017 – Calombaris is fined $1000 for the A-League assault
FEBRUARY 1, 2018 – His assault conviction is overturned on appeal after a District Court judge agreed with Calombaris’ lawyer that he had suffered significant financial and personal loss, and was unlikely to re-offend
JULY 18, 2019 – The Fair Work Ombudsman fines the MasterChef Australia judge and his Made Establishment company $200,000 for underpaying staff at his restaurants by nearly $8 million
JULY 22, 2019 – The West Australian government suspends its tourism campaign featuring Calombaris over the Fair Work Obudsman fine
JULY 23, 2019 – Calombaris and fellow judges Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan leave MasterChef after contract negotiations fail
FEBRUARY 10, 2020 – Made falls into voluntary administration