A real estate agent is under investigation after putting his company into liquidation with nearly $5 million owed to creditors, then promptly opening up shop under a new name.

Kevin Wakelin's company owned Harcourts franchises in Rotorua, Wanganui and Taupo - but after he called in the liquidator on his business, the first two franchises were sold.

However, Wakelin held on to his company's Taupo listings - prompting a complaint to the Real Estate Agents Authority. The authority confirmed it was investigating.

There is a family dispute as to who is to blame for the demise of the company: director Kevin Wakelin or his son, former director Grant Wakelin.

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Father and son live next door to each other in modern million-dollar mansions overlooking Lake Taupo.

But it appears there is no love lost: liquidator John Gilbert says in his report that he was told the company's losses and debts were run up under Grant Wakelin's management.

Grant Wakelin resigned as a director and his father took back control of the business at the start of last year - but in October the decision was made to put the company into liquidation. The decision was prompted by the Inland Revenue Department's demand that the company pay some of its $900,000 outstanding tax bill.

IRD is just one of more than 80 creditors - some (such as Harcourts and Rotorua's Daily Post) are owed six-figure sums. A bank is owed $2.6 million. Some debts date back to several years earlier when, according to the liquidator's report, Wakelin Real Estate Ltd operated nine branches in the central North Island.

"I am told that Mr Grant Wakelin 'ran' the business for a period of time," the report says. "During this time, as a result of market condition and management choice the company ran into significant difficulties, incurring losses and running up debts."

In the days before the liquidator was appointed, Kevin Wakelin changed the company's name to CNILD Ltd and then, just two days later, to Monzre Ltd.

Wakelin tearfully broke the news to staff and estate agents the company was going into liquidation and they no longer had jobs - and then resumed selling property again from the same Taupo office, operating as a sole trader under the brand Kevin Wakelin Real Estate.

This week, he acknowledged his Companies Act legal responsibilities, and his worries that he might be the target of any legal action that emerged.

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"The laws of the land will apply," he said. "Of course one's concerned."

But he said the new operation was "a totally different structure".

Asked why businesses and homeowners should feel confident dealing with him, when his previous company had gone bust, he said the difference would be reduced overheads and his long experience in real estate.

"He [Grant Wakelin] is not involved in the operation. That's the only comment because I've also got to protect myself legally."

"I don't want to jeopardise the chance of being able to keep people's jobs and all that sort of thing going."

Grant Wakelin, who now sells real estate online, questioned the liquidation process. He was concerned about "friendly liquidators".