Perrin vanishes like a billabong in a drought | The Australian

Posted: March 8, 2009 in Uncategorized

FORMER Billabong clothing empire wunderkind and Gold Coast multi-millionaire Matthew Perrin has gone to ground after this week being declared bankrupt with debts of $28 million.

Mr Perrin’s brother Fraser – a former Queensland rugby union player and board member of The Southport School – said he had been unable to contact the former Billabong chief executive. “If I could find him I’d ring him as well,” he said. “I don’t know where he is.”

Matthew Perrin, who spent four years on the BRW Rich List with his wife, Nicole, recording a peak value of $151 million in 2002, filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday with debts of $28.2 million to 20 unsecured creditors.

It is becoming apparent that although he reportedly had problems with a real estate investment in China, he had other difficulties relating to horse racing interests in Australia. Also, his personal fortune may not have been as high in recent years as was imagined. Two family companies, Christie Queensland Pty Ltd and MDP Consolidated Pty Ltd, have gone into forms of administration in recent days and are likely to be wound up.

A long-time, big-scale punter and former owner of as many as 60 horses, Mr Perrin owes $1.62 million to seven bookmakers, mostly corporate bookmakers offering odds online.

He owes $800,000 to Centrebet managing director Con Kafataris and a combined $460,000 to Victorian bookies Alan Eskander and Frank Hudson. Mr Perrin has an association with the gambling industry stretching back to the early 1990s when, as a university student, he spent more than three years working for bookmaker Laurie Bricknell, whose daughter Nicole is Mr Perrin’s wife.

He owes a further $13.5 million to the Commonwealth Bank, secured against a Mermaid Beach unit that he bought in 2007 for $4.3 million and which by now may be worth only $3.5 million. Mr Perrin shot to fame in financial circles in 2000 when he became chief executive of Billabong, which listed that year as a market darling, with the group’s shares closing at a 37 per cent premium to its $2.30 offer price.

Two years earlier Mr Perrin, then a little-known 26-year-old Gold Coast solicitor, teamed up with former Qantas chief executive Gary Pemberton to buy a 49per cent stake in surfwear giant Billabong from its co-founder Rena Merchant.

Ms Merchant, who founded Billabong in 1974 with her former husband Gordon, was paid $26.4million for her stake by Mr Perrin, his brother Scott and Mr Pemberton.

The deal with Ms Merchant paid off for Matthew, who in 2002 sold 60 per cent of his holding, reaping $66million. But that move caused a furore, with the Billabong chief executive failing to tell the board he planned to sell, and he resigned.

Ms Merchant, speaking yesterday from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, where she owns and operates an environmentally aware “organic golf course” at Boreen Point, said she did not regret the sale. “We did what we did at the time and we wish (Mr Perrin) all the luck in the world: it sounds like he needs some,” she said.

“I only met the man twice which was when (the sale) was negotiated.”

Matthew Perrin moved on too, selling a controlling stake in his software group RuleBurst to Larry Ellison’s Oracle Group last year in a deal that was described as being worth $100 million.

That claim, which did not come from him, served to reinforce the notion of great wealth but in fact he ended up being paid only $242,500 for a parcel of options in RuleBurst sold on December 30, according to a statement of affairs filed during the week.



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