Christopher Adams

Christopher Adams is the Markets and Banking reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Family feud shuts burrito stores - 100 jobs at risk

Banks pull support from Mexican food chain after marriage breakup leads to injunction.

The California Burrito store on Queen St has been closed. Photo / Dean Purcell
The California Burrito store on Queen St has been closed. Photo / Dean Purcell

The future of a popular Mexican burrito chain - and the jobs of 100 workers - is in serious doubt as a result of a bitter family feud involving property developer Andrew Krukziener.

Australian businessman Jeff Moss opened the first Original California Burrito Company store in Auckland in 2011.

The business, which recently expanded to Hamilton and Australia, grew into a 12-store chain.

But all the stores - with the exception of two outlets owned by franchisees in Manukau and Ellerslie, as well as two sites in Australia - have been shut down and creditors are owed more than $500,000, according to Mr Moss.

He said yesterday that things turned sour in May when he separated from his wife, Lisa Krukziener, the property developer's sister.

She and Andrew Krukziener took out an urgent court injunction against Food Retail Group, the firm that owns the burrito chain's intellectual property, outlets and franchise system, Mr Moss said.

"Unfortunately, as a result [of the injunction], the banks withdrew support and the business has now collapsed.

"It's backfired dreadfully, not just for them [the Krukzieners] but for the 100 people who've lost their jobs and the franchisees who are now in disarray."

Mr Krukziener did not return calls yesterday.

Mr Moss said the injunction was a "knee-jerk reaction" to protect the burrito firm's assets following the separation.

"There's a whole lot of complicated issues going on in the background," said Mr Moss, who has been involved in property transactions with Mr Krukziener.

The High Court last month ordered Mr Moss - who fought a custody battle with Ms Krukziener after she took their two children to the United States following the separation - to pay a $2.45 million debt to property finance firm Spinnaker Capital.

The debt stemmed from a loan Mr Moss guaranteed to the Peacock Street Trust, which owns prime waterfront property in Glendowie that Mr Krukziener once had grand plans to develop.

Peacock Street Trust was previously owned by Mr Krukziener, but its sole director and shareholder is now Gitta Saidi, his wife.

Mr Moss claimed he had received several "firm offers" from people who wanted to buy the burrito business.

"These are offers that, if nothing else, would at least see creditors get their money back."

A notice posted on the door of the Newmarket store, written by the landlord, said the lease had been terminated and Mr Moss would be "pursued for all damages".

Mr Moss said the debt to Spinnaker Capital had been "resolved" and he was returning to New Zealand from Sydney yesterday.

The Original California Burrito Company:


Closed: K Rd, Victoria St, Queen St, Commerce St, Albany, Newmarket, Eden Park (open during games), Hamilton.

Still trading: Ellerslie and Manukau, plus two stores in Australia.

Creditors owed: More than $500,000.

- NZ Herald

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