A watershed meeting of creditors next week for Pumpkin Patch is likely to see duelling liquidators as insolvency firms jostle for the rights to wrest what they can from the collapsed childrens' retailer.
The move into liquidation is considered a near-inevitability after a union lobbying for hundreds of the company's workers owed millions said it would urge members to vote in favour of the move.
Pumpkin Patch entered voluntary administration in October, and a meeting scheduled for March 7 has administrators McGrathNicol urging creditors to vote for liquidation in order to explore options for recovering a total of $70 million owed to ANZ and others.
McGrathNicol last week secured an order in the High Court clearing them of conflicts of interests and allowing them to put their own hat in the ring, but it appears likely this move will be challenged by rival insolvency administrators McDonald Vague.
The Herald understands the mulled rival bid follows meetings with Pumpkin Patch headquarters employees, who are owed a total of $5m but due to corporate structuring found their legal employer - Pumpkin Patch Limited - owned practically no assets.
McDonald Vague director Iain McLennan was unwilling to commit to such a move when contacted by the Herald yesterday.
"It's something that we're looking at. We're sitting in a meeting right now discussing it," he said.
Were his firm to enter the ring he said it would be more likely to challenge at the watershed meeting than at the High Court.
He said initial indications - based on reading reports published by the Herald - offered some hope for creditors.
"Having read the report... I see several potential avenues for recovery action," he said.
Robert Reid, the general secretary of FIRST Union, said while his members accounted for only a small portion of the 204 workers at Pumpkin Patch headquarters he was now lobbying on their behalf.
"It's grossly unfair. People at head office, who essentially are ones who've been there since year dot, are highly incensed," he said.
He said the company's receivers had paid out holiday pay in order to keep some staff on to wind down the business, but redundancy and other entitlements were still owing.
A spokesman for ANZ said they did not wish to comment on the move.
"It's worth remembering that ANZ is also in the queue of creditors," the spokesman said.
Reid said he was undecided on whether on which liquidation bid to support.
Developments yesterday followed Herald obtaining a detailed report prepared by McGrathNicol on the former sharemarket high-flier - at its peak worth more than $800m but now effectively worthless - describing a company that "had been in a steady state of decline for many years".