August 2011

 

Phoenix boss apologises after company crashes

NO CASH FOR CREDITORS

Owner blames economy and lack of orders for demise

Mr Rosenthal: apologised for Phoenix demise

Mr Rosenthal: apologised for Phoenix demise

Story and Photos: Dennis Amor
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CREDITORS of failed Queensland caravan manufacturer Phoenix are unlikely to see any of the money owing to them, according to the liquidator.

The builder of off-road quality caravans shocked the industry when it ceased trading following a fall-off in orders.

Devastated owner Greg Rosenthal who bought the company in 2003 for a reported $1 million said he had no option but to call in liquidators.

"People are just not spending," the former 70-year-old businessman told Caravanning News in an exclusive interview.

Meanwhile, traders calling at the Phoenix factory sandwiched between a major Coromal dealership and a used caravan dealer alongside the Bruce Highway at Caboolture north of Brisbane were met with an empty and padlocked yard.

All the company's completed and partially-completed caravans had earlier been moved to nearby Sunland Caravans.

Mr Rosenthal apologised for his company's demise, saying: "The only thing that made this happen was the economy ... there was no other reason."

He said he had been through many recessions but this had been the worst.

The deserted Phoenix Caravans reception area

The deserted Phoenix Caravans reception area after the company's demise was announced

"Everybody's now in a bad way. Every person I talked to was saying things are absolutely dead. But I was optimistic because we had orders and lots of inquiries. As it turned out, people were not actually spending money and buying the caravans.

"Orders fell away and things got worse and worse. I was optimistic that it would turn the corner and we would see it through.

"But we decided to put in the liquidator rather than have one appointed. I am not ducking out of my obligations."

Mr Rosenthal said Sunland Caravans' Roy Wyss had been "very helpful".

"We wanted to make it smooth so people were not left out in the cold. We want to keep the brand alive for all our faithful customers. It has a good name and we want to retain it," he added.

Mr Wyss said he emptied the factory of caravans after fearing the landlord would padlock the gates when he "got wind" of Phoenix's impending demise.

A locksmith changes the padlock on the Phoenix factory gates

A locksmith changes the padlock on the Phoenix
factory gates

"If I hadn't pulled them out people would never have got their caravans," he explained.

He said he had bought the Phoenix name, unencumbered assets and staff liability a week before the company ceased trading.

"I did not purchase the operating company because it was debt laden," Mr Wyss said.

"It would have cost me around half a million dollars to do it and I would have got zero return because there was not even one outstanding order on the books ... there was nothing.

"But what I have purchased is the name, though the liquidators could argue that point. I don't think they will because I took on the five staff which was a $50,000 debt and, because there are no assets in Phoenix at all, they will be happy about that."

Mr Wyss believed Phoenix would "rise from the ashes", adding: "It's done it before and it will do it again. It's in my interest to keep the name going."

Geoff Bull: caravan rescued from doomed factoryTasmanian Geoff Bull owns one of the caravans ''rescued' from the doomed Phoenix factory. His $80,000 Phoenix Nomad was among the half dozen or so caravans hauled away from the premises before the locks were changed. Geoff, pictured left, told Caravanning News: "I am so grateful. My Phoenix is the best 'van I have owned ... and I have had a few over the years."

 

He revealed that he wanted to put a proposition to all Phoenix owners so they could still be covered by warranty.

He suggested each owner contribute $500 or $600 into a fund to cover the scheme.

The Rosenthals bought Phoenix from the Davidson family, who founded the company more than 20 years ago.

Barry Davidson told Caravanning News that he and his sons were saddened by the latest news.

"The Davidson family value the heritage and history of what we had originally conceived with Phoenix," he said.

He added that the family's current business, Caboolture Caravan Repairs, would be pleased to look after all Phoenix owners "whether their 'van is one of our builds or one built by the current now demised owner".

Liquidator Terry Rose, of Brisbane insolvency firm SV Partners, said the first meeting of creditors had been scheduled for August 12 in Brisbane.

Meanwhile, he was still investigating the sale of the Phoenix name, unencumbered assets and staff liability.

"Things are in their early stages but it does appear there will be no returns to creditors. There will be a shortfall to the secured creditor," he said.

It is understood about 53 creditors are owed around $280,000.

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