One of Australia’s biggest retail groups continues to struggle mightily and lose money but that hasn’t stopped its boss from pocketing a huge spike in pay.
One of Australia’s biggest retail groups continues to struggle mightily and lose money but that hasn’t stopped its boss from pocketing a huge spike in pay.

RFG boss reaps huge pay hike despite more losses

BIG PAYDAY

One of Australia's biggest retail groups continues to struggle mightily and lose money but that hasn't stopped its boss from pocketing a huge spike in pay.

 Peter George, as head of Gold Coast-based Retail Food Group, earned a nice little compensation package of $1.3m in the last financial year.

That was a near quadrupling of the $341,160 he took home in the same period last year and included a $300,000 bonus and another $415,365 from long-term performance rights.

Details of his compo emerged in RFG's annual results, which were released on Friday and showed the company lost $4m over the year.

 

 

That followed a staggering $142m net loss in 2019 for the group, which includes Donut King, Crust Pizza, Brumby's Bakeries, Gloria Jean's, Michel's Patisserie, Pizza Capers and Di Bella Coffee.

The pandemic made things more challenging, of course, as pre-tax earnings slumped to $35.5m, down almost 20 per cent, and store closures continued.

But fuming investors are still sure to have a few questions at the upcoming AGM for George, who joined the company as a self-described "turnaround specialist'' in September 2018.

The share price, which once hit a high above $7.30, hovered around 50c when George came aboard. Even before COVID-19 arrived, the price had collapsed and it closed at just 6.9c on Friday.

Despite all this, George used an investor briefing to highlight the group's ongoing restructuring efforts and the recapitalisation under his watch, which included a capital raising of nearly $200m last year. Almost $72m in debt was also written off.

 "We have started to see positive returns from many of our initiatives,'' he said on the call.

That optimism comes despite a raft of other problems facing the company, including claims that arose last year about the poor treatment of franchises and underpayment of staff.

While ASIC took no action against RFG following a recent probe, George acknowledged that the company remains under investigation by the ACCC, which is looking at franchising issues.

NEW ENTITY

Speaking of the Gold Coast, the liquidator of a Southport financial planning firm tells City Beat that he's having a close look at the actions of the former founder and director.

Michael Caspaney was appointed this week to wind up Lotustar Financial Pty Ltd by sole director Paul Logan.

Records show Logan, a UK native based in NSW, was only appointed to that job on June 2 this year and had no prior involvement with the entity.

He replaced the lone director and owner, Garry Bradburn, who had launched the company in early 2017.

Seems pretty straight forward.

 

Garry Bradburn launched Lotustar Financial in 2017.
Garry Bradburn launched Lotustar Financial in 2017.

 

But Caspaney's interest was piqued by the fact that Bradburn registered a new and nearly identically-named entity called Lotustar Financial Planning Pty Ltd less than two weeks earlier on May 21 this year.

The new company is operating out of the same office in the Southport Central tower as the now-defunct business!

"Having very similar names raises a lot of questions and we'll be asking those questions,'' Caspaney told us.

"I need to explore what happened. At this point, we're still obtaining information from the director (Logan).''

Bradburn did not return calls seeking comment on Friday and Logan could not be contacted.

WATER BUNGLE

There are a few red faces at SunWater, headed by new CEO Glenn Stockton.

It emerged on Friday that the state-owned water services provider has joined the growing ranks of companies dudding workers on their pay packets.

SunWater has now forked out more than $2.3m to 73 staff who were underpaid between 2006 and 2020.

 

 

The errors, which ranged from less than $60 to more than $224,000, were picked up by an in-house audit.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also required SunWater to fork out more than $100,000 in a "contrition payment'' to the federal government and enter into an enforceable undertaking over the bungle.

Originally published as RFG boss reaps huge pay hike despite more losses



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