Friday 20 March 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Prentice may grill billionaire Mother over bankrupt son's mortgage

Max Prentice of BPS Recovery
SYDNEY-based bankruptcy trustee Max Prentice may seek to formally question one of Australia's richest women after being appointed trustee of the bankrupt estate of West Australian businessman Grant Bennett.

45 year old Bennett is the son of Angela Bennett, whose late father Peter Wright shared in the riches generated after he and his prospecting partner the late Lang Hancock identified and staked claim to much of the Pilbarra region's vast iron ore reserves. Ms Bennett's net worth is estimated at around $1 billion net, thanks to a half share in Wright Prospecting and a swag of property interests.

Grant Bennett declared himself bankrupt earlier this year via a debtor's petition filed in Adelaide after defaulting on loans extended by JWH Nominees, the private financing vehicle of the Sydney-based Hunt family, which sold out of Primo Small Goods in 2011.

The money was initially lent to Strategic Investment & Trading Pty Ltd, which spent $8.7 million buying farmland around Boddington south of Perth. The plan was to subdivide and sell to wealthy Asian investors.

Under the terms of an agreement with Strategic, Grant Bennett was then going to buy the farm from Strategic for $17.6 million, thereby enabling Strategic to repay JWH.

When Bennett's company, GKB Property Pty Ltd failed to obtain alternative financing to complete the transaction, JWH put receivers in charge of Strategic.

According to a report by journalist Neale Prior published in The West Australian last week, Grant Bennett provided personal guarantees on the loans to Strategic. Default interest rates of 39 percent have applied since July, 2013.

Prior's report also says JWH had hoped Angela Bennett would bail out her son. She refused and Grant Bennett then made an offer which JWH deemed unacceptable. He filed a debtor's petition with the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA) in Adelaide on January 12, 2015.

By declaring himself bankrupt, Grant Bennett's estate became the responsibility of the Official Receiver. However JWH Nominees then intervened, applying under Section 181 of the Bankruptcy Act to replace the Official Receiver with Prentice of BPS Recovery. Angela Bennett, who is also a creditor of her son, did not respond and Prentice was appointed trustee of Grant Bennett's estate on March 6, 2015.

The appointment of Prentice is likely to refocus scrutiny on potentially recoverable assets, principle of which is a mansion Grant Bennett occupies in Perth's exclusive Mosman Park.

Purchased in 2010, the property is mortgaged to Angela Bennett and without a settlement, Ms Bennett may well find herself summoned to answer detailed questions about the mortgage and its terms.

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