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Masterchef Australia: George Calombaris in new debt crisis

George Calombaris’ up-market yoghurt chain is reportedly refusing to repay a $140,000 loan plunging the celebrity chef into a new debt crisis.

The scandal comes after the former MasterChef star’s restaurant empire MAdE Establishment folded in February with just a pitiful $389 in the bank and owing $22 million to creditors.

Mr Calombaris’ up-market yoghurt chain, Yo-Chi, based in Melbourne, owes money to his failed restaurant company,’ The Daily Telegraph reported.

The liquidators tasked with raising funds to pay MAdE’s creditors and a $1.32 million employee wage and entitlements bill have given up trying to claw back the cash from Yo-Chi because it ‘has ‘minimal cash and recoverable assets’.

George Calombaris has been caught in a fresh debt scandal with his up-market yoghurt chain refusing to repay a $140,000 loan (Pictured: George Calombaris and his wife Natalie Tricarico)

George Calombaris has been caught in a fresh debt scandal with his up-market yoghurt chain refusing to repay a $140,000 loan (Pictured: George Calombaris and his wife Natalie Tricarico)

George Calombaris has been caught in a fresh debt scandal with his up-market yoghurt chain refusing to repay a $140,000 loan (Pictured: George Calombaris and his wife Natalie Tricarico)

The up-market yoghurt chain, Yo-Chi (pictured), based in Melbourne, owes the money to Mr Calombaris' failed company

The up-market yoghurt chain, Yo-Chi (pictured), based in Melbourne, owes the money to Mr Calombaris' failed company

The up-market yoghurt chain, Yo-Chi (pictured), based in Melbourne, owes the money to Mr Calombaris’ failed company

The liquidators, KordaMentha, have been trying to collect outstanding debts for MAdE since it was placed in administration on February 10.

MAdE Establishment, a once thriving business, was ruined after a wage theft scandal last year.  

The liquidators had hoped the $140,000 debt Yo-Chi could help contribute to the funds as the money was made as an ‘inter-company loan’. 

MAdE Establishment owes $9 million to the Commonwealth Bank alone, with most of that unlikely to be repaid. 

‘Yo-Chi has minimal cash and recoverable assets,’ the latest liquidators report said following correspondence with one of Yo-Chi’s shareholders.

‘In addition, Made Establishment’s claim is as an unsecured creditor of Yo-Chi and we are aware of a secured creditor who would rank ahead of Made Establishment’s claim in any formal insolvency process.’

The Melbourne-based restaurant empire, founded by Calombaris, operates 18 venues including the Press Club, Gazi and Hellenic Republic (pictured)

The Melbourne-based restaurant empire, founded by Calombaris, operates 18 venues including the Press Club, Gazi and Hellenic Republic (pictured)

The Melbourne-based restaurant empire, founded by Calombaris, operates 18 venues including the Press Club, Gazi and Hellenic Republic (pictured)

The announcement comes on the same day the former MasterChef judge flagged the sale of his mansion (pictured) in the exclusive Melbourne suburb of Toorak

The announcement comes on the same day the former MasterChef judge flagged the sale of his mansion (pictured) in the exclusive Melbourne suburb of Toorak

The announcement comes on the same day the former MasterChef judge flagged the sale of his mansion (pictured) in the exclusive Melbourne suburb of Toorak  

The liquidators have so far raised $820,000 which includes earning $222,000 from an online auction of restaurant equipment and food inventory. 

The Melbourne-based restaurant empire, founded by Calombaris, operated 18 venues including the Press Club, Gazi and Hellenic Republic. 

The company had a dizzying series of intercompany loans – which allow businesses to shift cash around in case of a shortfall.

Their fortunes changed in July 2019 when it emerged it had underpaid staff to the tune of $7.8 million.

Less than two years later, the business went into voluntary administration, marking the immediate closure of its 12 venues – with up to 500 staff set to lose their jobs.

Five have now been sold to new owners, leaving little hope for the remaining seven.

George Calombaris (pictured) admitted he was 'devastated' after his restaurant empire went into voluntary administration

George Calombaris (pictured) admitted he was 'devastated' after his restaurant empire went into voluntary administration

George Calombaris (pictured) admitted he was ‘devastated’ after his restaurant empire went into voluntary administration

The business had a complex web of debts to more than 200 small creditors, which included food suppliers and tradesmen, according to documents seen by the Australian

Calombaris’ business partner, millionaire Radek Sali, claims to be owed $13.7m. 

The former MasterChef host said he was ‘devastated’ by the decision to shut his empire which was made on February 10.

‘It is with deep sadness and regret that today MAdE Establishment has been placed into voluntary administration,’ he wrote on social media.

‘To all my team, I truly regret it has come to this. On a personal note, the last few months have been the most challenging I have ever faced.

‘At this time, while personally devastated, I remain thankful to my family, friends, the MAdE team, our loyal and regular customers.

‘I am so sorry all our collective efforts have not provided to be enough. I’m gutted that it’s come to this.’ 

The announcement came on the same day Calombaris flagged the sale of his mansion in the exclusive Melbourne suburb of Toorak. 

The home boasts five bedrooms, five bathrooms, a pool, in-home gym and a cinema room. 

The exclusive home (pictured) boasts five bedrooms, five bathrooms, a pool, in-home gym and a cinema room

The exclusive home (pictured) boasts five bedrooms, five bathrooms, a pool, in-home gym and a cinema room

The exclusive home (pictured) boasts five bedrooms, five bathrooms, a pool, in-home gym and a cinema room 

The Jimmy Grants venues in Melbourne (pictured) have since been sold, after MAdE Establishment went into administration

The Jimmy Grants venues in Melbourne (pictured) have since been sold, after MAdE Establishment went into administration

The Jimmy Grants venues in Melbourne (pictured) have since been sold, after MAdE Establishment went into administration

Just weeks earlier on Australia Day, Calombaris and his wife Natalie Tricarico sold their holiday home on the Mornington Peninsula for $1.01million at auction.

Calombaris’ hospitality empire was revealed in July 2019 to have underpaid staff to the tune of $7.8 million.

The wages scandal was uncovered and reported by staff of Mr Sali, who was brought into the business in 2016.

The $7.8 million in wages and superannuation owed to staff by MAdE Establishment was backpaid in 2019, but it devastated the company’s reputation.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also hit the company with a $200,000 fine.

At the time, Calombaris told the ABC’s 7.30 program: ‘We aren’t closing our restaurants, we’re here’.

Calombaris (pictured, centre) was a judge and host on the hit Network Ten show MasterChef from 2009 until 2019

Calombaris (pictured, centre) was a judge and host on the hit Network Ten show MasterChef from 2009 until 2019

Calombaris (pictured, centre) was a judge and host on the hit Network Ten show MasterChef from 2009 until 2019

Hellenic Republic in Brunswick, Melbourne, (pictured) closed immediately after the company went under

Hellenic Republic in Brunswick, Melbourne, (pictured) closed immediately after the company went under

Hellenic Republic in Brunswick, Melbourne, (pictured) closed immediately after the company went under

The Melbourne-based restaurant empire, founded by Calombaris, operated 12 venues including the Press Club, Gazi and Jimmy Grants (pictured)

The Melbourne-based restaurant empire, founded by Calombaris, operated 12 venues including the Press Club, Gazi and Jimmy Grants (pictured)

The Melbourne-based restaurant empire, founded by Calombaris, operated 12 venues including the Press Club, Gazi and Jimmy Grants (pictured)

‘And it’s my job as their leader to keep pushing forward and keep speaking this message, not shying away from the mistake we made, but also acknowledging that we fixed it.’

‘I won’t forget that afternoon in 2017 when we sat there with my new business partners after we’d done a full audit for the business and discovered the underpayments.’

Bosses said employees would be paid all outstanding wages when the company went under.

The management of MAdE, which is backed by former Swisse CEO Radek Sali, met with creditors before the announcement was made.

‘Craig Shepard and Leanne Chesser of KordaMentha restructuring were today appointed Voluntary Administrators of 22 companies in the MAdE Establishment Group,’ the advisory and investment firm said in a statement.

‘The appointment excludes the [smaller offshoot, yoghurt store] Yo-Chi operations which will continue to trade as usual. All other venues have stopped trading immediately.

‘Employees have been paid all outstanding wages and superannuation up to the date of the appointment.’

Timeline of Calombaris’ woes 

MAY 15, 2014 – The Department of Health investigates after diners who ate at the Hellenic Republic at Kew fell ill. It is later confirmed norovirus affected about 100 people

APRIL, 2017 – It’s revealed about $2.6 million in back payments were dished out to 162 workers employed by Made Establishment because of payroll ‘discrepancies’ dating back to 2011.

MAY 10, 2017 – Calombaris is charged with assault over a fight with a 19-year-old at an A-League grand final between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory in Sydney a few days earlier

MAY 16, 2017 – Melbourne man David Peter Schreuder sues the Hellenic Republic restaurant and Made Establishment group over the norovirus encephalitis outbreak

AUGUST 17, 2017 – The chef pleads guilty to assault over the A-League incident

SEPTEMBER 8, 2017 – He hands in his Melbourne Victory No. 1 ticket due to the assault

OCTOBER 20, 2017 – Calombaris is fined $1000 for the A-League assault

FEBRUARY 1, 2018 – His assault conviction is overturned on appeal after a District Court judge agreed with Calombaris’ lawyer that he had suffered significant financial and personal loss, and was unlikely to re-offend

JULY 18, 2019 – The Fair Work Ombudsman fines the MasterChef Australia judge and his Made Establishment company $200,000 for underpaying staff at his restaurants by nearly $8 million

JULY 22, 2019 – The West Australian government suspends its tourism campaign featuring Calombaris over the Fair Work Obudsman fine

JULY 23, 2019 – Calombaris and fellow judges Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan leave MasterChef after contract negotiations fail

FEBRUARY 10, 2020 – It is reported Made could fall into voluntary administration, putting the futures of 500 workers at its 18 restaurants at risk.

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Source: Daily Mail Australia | News Colony

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