Can Serepisos rise again?

By Rosaleen Macbrayne

Terry Serepisos lost his final bid to beat bankruptcy today. Photo / Getty Images
Terry Serepisos lost his final bid to beat bankruptcy today. Photo / Getty Images

Debt-laden property developer, former host of reality television programme The Apprentice and, until last Friday, proud owner of the Phoenix football club, Terry Serepisos lost his final bid to beat bankruptcy today.

In the High Court at Wellington, Associate Judge David Gendall refused to grant yet another delay to the many adjournments Mr Serepisos has had in his efforts to save his diminishing empire.

"These matters have been long-standing and the debts substantial", said the Judge, adding bankruptcy was in the interests of the wider commercial community.

It was time for the official assignee to investigate the Serepisos situation, he said.

Terry Serepisos, who owes more than two dozen creditors around $203 million was not present in the small courtroom crowded with lawyers and media representatives when the axe fell.

The bankruptcy proceedings were brought by South Canterbury Finance, seeking more than $22 million.

Lawyer for Mr Serepisos John Billington QC promptly announced yet another glimmer of a bailout, announcing his client had an arrangement put in place last Thursday for a loan from a Hong Kong-based merchant bank.

The amount, which the lawyer did not want to disclose publicly, but was later revealed to be US$20 million should be available in the New Zealand banking system by the end of this week.

"It is, in every sense of the word, a final opportunity", said Mr Billington.

If granted an adjournment until Friday, it would definitely be the last.

Should the funds not have arrived by then "... there is the harsh realty to face that they will not be here," he admitted.

"This is the plan. There is no other."

But with only a backup letter from an Auckland solicitor expressing satisfaction that the unnamed bank which had approved funds to Mr Serepisos was credible, Associate Judge Gendall was not convinced.

"I am quite unable from the letter to determine the voracity of this arrangement and whether indeed the loan monies will arrive as promised."

The Judge revealed the agreement was for an initial US$5 million to be followed by a US$15 million dollar remittance to Century City Trust Limited, of which Mr Serepisos is sole director and shareholder.

That company is not facing liquidation proceedings but his shareholding would be controlled by the official assignee.

In his oral judgement, Associate Judge Kendall said there was not sufficient evidence to show the money, if it came, would cover Serepisos' debts.

"It goes without saying this is rather unsatisfactory, given the history of this entire proceeding."

He said bankruptcy was "just and equitable."

- APNZ

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