Property tycoon Kevin Miller and members of the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron are demanding answers over “over the top” fees and use of club funds.
Property tycoon Kevin Miller and members of the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron are demanding answers over “over the top” fees and use of club funds.

Tycoon challenges yacht club’s use of funds

Property tycoon Kevin Miller and other high-flying members of the elite Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron are demanding transparency around the club's finances, urging the board to ditch the "smokescreen" amid exorbitant fee hikes.

Mr Miller, who twice held the top job of commodore at the salubrious Manly club and is a life member, is seeking a special general meeting with officials, saying requests for "detailed accountability" have been ignored.

Property developer Kevin Miller when he was commodore of Royal Queensland Yacht Club in 2015. Photo: Josh Woning.
Property developer Kevin Miller when he was commodore of Royal Queensland Yacht Club in 2015. Photo: Josh Woning.

Half-yearly marina berth fees have jumped over 30 per cent - totalling $2.15 million for 2020-21 - despite assurances any increases would be modest, according to angry members who contacted The Courier-Mail.

Mr Miller, the brains behind Centro on James in the Valley and The Barracks in Petrie Terrace, is being supported by fellow developer Russell McCart and other wealthy members in calls to lose the "smokescreen".

At issue, according to Mr Miller, is how the sizeable assets of the RQYS Marina Ltd, which in 2016 included 42 berths and $961,951 in cash, have been used, and "how bad the financial position of the squadron is to justify this blatant rip-off of a section of the membership".

This is not the first time the 135-year-old club has come under fire for an alleged lack of transparency.

In July, The Courier-Mail exposed alleged misuse of government COVID-19 relief funds, and in August whistleblower Mike Freebairn was expelled. The club denied any wrongdoing at the time.

Former member Mike Freebairn questioned Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron’s use of government COVID-19 relief funds in July. Photo: Mark Cranitch.
Former member Mike Freebairn questioned Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron’s use of government COVID-19 relief funds in July. Photo: Mark Cranitch.

On the weekend, berth holders were alerted to Mr Miller's meeting request, and sent a copy of his November 25 email to squadron officials.

In the correspondence from a fellow berth holder, they were told the "emergency" meeting would question how club bosses "can charge whatever they wish for outgoings" and "captive members shall pay whatever is charged or lose their subleases".

It said "previous attempts at a conciliatory approach had either been ignored or resulted in a meeting designed to deflect the financial issues".

Mr Miller's November 25 email followed an unsatisfactory meeting the week prior.

"The seriously strong message the berth holders attending expressed (on November 17) was the complete lack of detailed accountability and lack of communication from the board in recent years," he said.

Referring to the significant 2016 assets of the RQYS Marina, Mr Miller said: "Where did those funds go?"

"The berths, with a saleable value of close to $3 million provided in excess of $300,000 p.a. income to the Marina Co, which now goes to the squadron directly," he said.

"Surely those funds should be set aside for the rebuilding or reconfiguration of the marina in 20 years' time rather than seeking a further $280,000 p.a. for a maintenance fund contribution in addition to the actual maintenance costs expended."

Mr Miller, who was commodore in 2013-1015 and 2006-2008, said leases had been able to incur other charges since 1984.

"However, only since 2015 has the current general manager (Shawn Ket) sought to add indirect wages and other costs into the equation to the extent of $330,773 in the 2021 budget, and heaven knows what in the 2019 and 2020 years to create the so-called non-full recovery which needs a clearer analysis before being credible."

He said the squadron had received over $360,000 a year from the redirection of rental commissions and live-aboard fees since 2016.

"Even the most ardent supporter of fairness amongst squadron entities would surely find this over the top," he said.

Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron general manager Shawn Ket. Photo: Renae Droop.
Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron general manager Shawn Ket. Photo: Renae Droop.

Responding to the allegations, Mr Ket said the board had decided to appoint an independent auditor to carry out a review of the calculation methodology of the half yearly sub-sublease charges.

"Given we've had these assertions from past commodore Miller and the magnitude of the rise this year, we consider it a good idea to look at the way charges are calculated to seek an outcome that is in the best interests of all members, not necessarily individuals or sub groups," Mr Ket said.

The auditor had yet to be appointed but it was hoped the review would be underway before the end of the year, with Mr Miller's requested meeting to be held in late January or early February.

He said charges for sub-subleases for berth holders had in some instances used methodology that had been in place for more than 30 years and had remained consistent over time.

 

Originally published as 'Blatant rip-off': Tycoon challenges yacht club's use of funds


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