THERE isn’t a lot billionaire retail giant Gerry Harvey doesn’t know about business.
But a bemused Mr Harvey was left scratching his head on Thursday when his lengthy business dealings with bankrupt former billionaire Nathan Tinkler finally came to an end.
Mr Harvey is set to be repaid the last $5.5 million of the $60 million he loaned to Mr Tinkler, after liquidators announced the sale of Patinack Farm’s former headquarters, Richmond Grove, in Sandy Hollow.
The property, that Mr Tinkler spent more than $26 million buying and developing, was carved up into three lots and sold for an undisclosed sum.
“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Mr Harvey said. “It’s been going on for close to 10 years, well, it feels like that anyway.”
Mr Harvey said he “couldn’t get his head around” how it turned out for the former mine electrician from Muswellbrook who became Australia’s youngest billionaire at the age of 35, and lost it all in spectacular fashion. Having lavished a fortune on racehorses and struggling to pay the bills, Mr Tinkler reached out for help and Mr Harvey loaned millions on the condition that he had first security over Patinack’s properties.
“How do you do that?” Mr Harvey said. “No-one can comprehend that sort of loss.”
The Harvey Norman founder is a huge player in racing and owns Magic Millions, a leading Australian auction house for horses.
When Mr Tinkler was just thinking about getting into horses, he sought out Mr Harvey for advice.
Drawn to the unconventional businessman – such a driven individual – Mr Harvey said it was natural for him to want to find out what “Nathan’s brand of talent was”.
“I like people that are different, for whatever reason they are different, and Tinkler definitely fitted that mould,” he said. “I told him to start off with three or four horses, a maximum 10. He thanked me for the advice and the next thing I know he’s buying the things by the thousand. I thought, ‘What did he want my advice for?’”
He still sees Mr Tinkler, the pair sometimes play golf. On whether he thinks the former mining magnate can come back from bankruptcy, he’s not betting any money on it.
“The important thing is that Nathan thinks he can make it back,” he said. “Hope is a wonderful thing and dreams. I wouldn’t wish Nathan would ever lose his dream, the reality is it’s very few people - in that situation - that can ever come back.
“I probably should have said, “Nathan, blow the whole lot. He wouldn’t have listened and he might have done all right then.”
Patinack properties in Sandy Hollow, Broke and Port Macquarie sold for $15 million, plus GST.
Mr Harvey, as first secured creditor, will receive the lion’s share of debts to be paid from the sales.
Administrators for the Patinack Farm Group initially recommended that creditors accept a deed of company arrangement that would see unsecured creditors receive just 3¢ in the dollar on the $30.7 million they were owed.
But the administrator was unable to secure funds to refinance the properties and the group of companies was placed into the hands of liquidator Deloitte Restructuring Services Partners, meaning the 11 unsecured creditors receive nothing.
A report to creditors in October 2015 disclosed the depth of Patinack’s demise, revealing that when Mr Tinkler called in the administrators in August 2015 the company had 35 horses, 38 cattle and less than $4000 in the bank.
A far cry from when Mr Tinkler went on the most spectacular spending spree in racing’s history, investing about $300 million in establishing Patinack Farm.
Deloitte partner Neil Cussen said the Sandy Hollow property sales would be finalised next month.