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Former PDL chief executive's timber companies fail

By Chris Hutching

Friday 21st February 2003

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Companies associated with Christchurch businessman Don Sollitt have been placed in receivership by creditors and are likely to be liquidated, according to receivers.

Mr Sollitt received an executive-sized redundancy believed to be more than $1 million when he left former listed electronics company PDL in 1998 after falling out with the Stewart family, a majority shareholder at the time.

He wanted the Stewarts to sell down and widen the investor base, possibly for a strategic partnership. But founder chairman Sir Robertson Stewart and wife Adrienne, Lady Stewart retained control of the boardroom.

Instead, they installed their son Mark to take over from Mr Sollitt as chief executive until the family sold out a couple of years ago to French conglomerate Schneider Electric for $100 million.

Meanwhile, Mr Sollitt and other former executives ousted after the failed boardroom coup against Sir Robertson became involved in a series of diverse businesses.

Receivers have completed reports on two of Mr Solitt's companies, Timberline Forest Products and Transpacific Lumber, neither of which is expected to have funds to return to creditors.

Timberline was placed in receivership by Westpac as the debenture holder, owed $251,336 including accrued interest. Receivers William Black and Kerryn Downey of KPMG were appointed as Timberline joint receivers in December.

The move came soon after the appointment of receiver Stephen Tubbs of BDO Spicers to Transpacific Lumber. Transpacific had acquired the business and some assets from Timberline during August 2002.

The receivership of Transpacific made it apparent that Timberline was unable to meet payments due to the debenture holder. Mr Tubbs was appointed by Canterbury Finance pursuing a debt of $1 million plus smaller amounts for employee and IRD claims. He said liquidation of the companies was likely after he finalised sales of assets and completed his work. Another company, Timberline Holdings International was liquidated a couple of weeks ago. Mr Tubbs said Transpacific was an exporter of timber that was processed for one customer in the US.

The supply agreement was for a large volume of kiln-dried pine machined to specific sizes and cut to length. To supply the quantity of timber required under the contract, the company invested in a sawmill located at Methven in Mid Canterbury. But the company was unable to process sufficient volumes under the contract and it had insufficient working capital to continue.

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