Queensland Media Holdings has debt of more than $5million

BRI Ferrier Townsville principal Moira Carter (right) and Meagan Barry walking towards Mackay Telegraph office.
BRI Ferrier Townsville principal Moira Carter (right) and Meagan Barry walking towards Mackay Telegraph office. Tony Martin

THE true extent of the demise of Queensland Media Holdings Pty Ltd (QMH), publisher of the Mackay Telegraph newspaper, has been revealed with a debt of more than $5 million.

The debt is listed in a circular sent to creditors by the liquidators BRI Ferrier and obtained by the Daily Mercury.

It includes $199,447 in superannuation and $391,240 in unpaid wages and other staff entitlements, as well as $4.46m owed to unsecured creditors.

Despite the massive debt, QMH chief executive officer Darren McVean always told staff he was optimistic about the financial future of the company up until the day before liquidators closed them down, according to one of his former senior managers.

Mr McVean even went as far as to say billionaire Clive Palmer was interested in buying out the troubled newspaper, Mackay Telegraph former general manager Tim Shinnick said.

But a spokesperson for Mr Palmer said this was never the case.

QMH, which employed about 35 staff, also published the Toowoomba Telegraph, with a newspaper also in operation in Rockhampton until just prior to liquidation.

Mr Shinnick said he was shocked by the amount, particularly considering the revenue that was coming in.

He said he received a phone call from liquidators the day before they closed.

"He (Mr McVean) wasn't taking the liquidator's phone calls. He was barely taking my phone calls.

"I had to physically go around to his house the day of the closure to tell him to come tell staff what is going on.

"He had been telling everyone the business was fine."

The letter to creditors read: "The only financial information available to us was in the form of internal accounts. We believe the account keeping was of very poor quality".

It is understood payments for advertising were still being accepted within days of the paper closing.

Greg Smart, partner at law firm SR Wallace and Wallace, said if a company director could reasonably suspect that company was or would soon be insolvent, the director had an obligation to cease trading.

"They probably had a reasonable basis for belief," he said.

"Most directors of insolvent companies suffer ostrich syndrome - they're not willing to accept their business is not a successful business and it can't be turned around."

Mr McVean's mobile number is disconnected and other attempts to contact him for comment were unsuccessful.

Topics:  community debt mackay newspaper queensland media holdings

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