One Jimmy Grants staff member said he received a text message at 7am on Monday telling him not to come in. At 5pm he got an email telling him he’d lost his job.
“A lot of us saw this as a matter of when, not if,” he said.
“It was pretty shit to get told by email.”
Staff were paid their final wages and superannuation over the weekend just before the business collapsed. Leave entitlements for about 100 ongoing staff are yet to be paid.
A clear picture is yet to emerge of the financial strife that has engulfed the company, but Craig Shepard, from KordaMentha, said the $7.83 million wages underpayment scandal was a big factor.
As well as repaying staff, the restaurant group was ordered to make a $200,000 contrition payment as part of an unprecedented deal with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
After months of negative media attention in the aftermath of the scandal, the company rebranded many of its prestige restaurants, but the move was not enough to save the business.
Mr Shepard said that year-to-date trade was well under what had been forecast.
“They’re 50 per cent down on where they expected to be,” he said.
“They had fantastic reviews but people haven’t turned up.
“The business has continued to lose money and shareholders weren’t prepared to put any more in.”
Despite stepping back as a figurehead and director of Made, Calombaris is still a significant shareholder, owning just under 46 per cent through a private company. Financial arrangements have diluted his holding.
Made’s sole director, Radek Sali – who reportedly earned about $400 million in 2015 from the sale of Swisse Wellness – also owns 46 per cent through companies owned by him and his wife.
A week before Made collapsed, entities associated with Mr Sali were registered as secured creditors of the business.
It is understood the company owes its chief lender, the Commonwealth Bank, between $5 million and $10 million. The bank had been supporting the business for the past 18 months, however, patience ran out, leading to administrators being called in.
The bank declined to comment.
Mr Shepard said Mr Sali had put more money into the business over the weekend to pay staff.
The backpay of $7.83 million in wages to 515 current and former employees was also financed by a loan from entities related to Mr Sali, the administrators said.
Mr Shepard would not say whether Mr Sali or Calombaris have provided any personal guarantees for debts. On Monday a sign asking for “expressions of interest” was put up in front of Calombaris’ multimillion-dollar Toorak mansion.
Suppliers are now watching closely to see if they will be paid for stock sold. One seafood business is understood to have confronted the company recently after it fell behind with its bills.
The administrators are moving fast to pay out what is owed and want new owners operating the restaurants by the start of next week.
Hospitality figures have been receiving unsolicited messages from the administrators asking if they want to buy one of the restaurants.
Mr Shepard acknowledged the quick turnaround might mean a good deal for a restaurateur.
“In the circumstances it’s going to be difficult for me to get a premium,” he said.
If buyers can’t be found, the administrators are prepared to sell whatever they can, including any inventory.
Chef Matt Wilkinson has indicated that he wants to buy Crofter Dining in Brunswick after relaunching on the site of the former Hellenic Republic just last month.
If his offer is accepted, Wilkinson hopes he can reopen Crofter Dining as early as Friday.
“I look at that and say well if we can find a deal that makes sense for Matt and make sense for us that’s got to be in everyone’s best interest,” Mr Shepard said.
Mr Shepard said the restaurants were likely to be sold to individual owners, although there was interest in Jimmy Grants as a package.
He said that the Yo-Chi frozen yoghurt chain had stayed open because it had positive cashflow.
“It must be good. I have a 15-year-old daughter, if I had have gone home last night and said, ‘I shut that,’ I wouldn’t be very popular,” he said.
Staff were given times on Tuesday and Wednesday to collect any personal belongings that remained in the padlocked restaurants.
Tom Cowie is a journalist at The Age covering general news.
Sarah Danckert is a business reporter.