Apollo Joinery factory collapses into liquidation owing more than $11m

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Workers at two NSW factories have slammed their former employer after the company went bust, leaving them and other creditors multiple millions out of pocket.

Last month, two companies linked to the Sydney-based Apollo group, which manufactures kitchen and bathroom joinery, collapsed into liquidation after 56 years in business.

Its main clients were big builders who will likely have to wear the cost in an already difficult market. Apollo also had showrooms in Sydney and the Central Coast where customers could come in to order cabinets or bench tops for their homes directly.

The Federal Court ordered Apollo Kitchens (NSW) Pty Ltd into liquidation in March over a $7.8 million unpaid tax debt, leading to around 100 people losing their jobs.

Following in quick succession was the collapse of Brownlen Pty Ltd later in March, which was placed into voluntary liquidation. Brownlen was the employing arm of Apollo’s head office staff and has resulted in a further 29 job losses.

One staff member, Ron*, who preferred to stay anonymous for future job prospects, hasn’t received any superannuation for 18 months, not since October 2022.

“All staff are absolutely disgusted,” Ron told news.com.au.

Apollo Kitchens (NSW) Pty Ltd’s $7.8 million tax debt is made up of unpaid PAYG and superannuation, according to one of the liquidators, Kathy Sozou of insolvency firm McGrath Nicol.

Originally the company’s tax debt was much smaller, at less than $4 million, but has ballooned to its current amount from incurring penalties and interest over many years.

Ms Sozou told news.com.au that as well as the eye-watering tax debt, the company owes a further $3.5 – $4 million to other unsecured creditors.

That brings its total debts to around $11 million.

Most of the debts were incurred over the last three months, Ms Sozou said, and she added that a few big suppliers are creditors, as well as about 50 smaller businesses.

“Some of that is inter-company claims, because they traded with entities in the group,” she said.

Ms Sozou also noted that her court appointment as liquidator came as a shock to Apollo Kitchen’s sole director, Peter Bader. News.com.au understands Mr Bader was in discussions with the tax office and immediately tried to appeal the decision when his company was ordered to liquidate.

The appointed liquidators of sister company Brownlen Pty Ltd, Edwin Narayan and Domenic Calabretta from restructuring business Mackay Goodwin, said it was too early to know how much the business owes.

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Apollo’s director, Peter Bader, and the liquidators, called a meeting at the Western Sydney site after the court order.

They announced that the company was in liquidation but it would continue to trade.

“It stumped everyone,” Ron said. “I’m just really scarred. Some people were worried they couldn’t pay their rent.”

Factory worker James* had already suspected something was deeply, seriously wrong, as his pay was a day late.

Apollo’s HR department had sent a text message to staff revealing that the company’s accounts had been frozen, which turned out to be a result of the liquidation.

James and a number of other workers refused to work until their wages were paid.

“The factory opens at 6am,” he told news.com.au. “It would have been 10.30am, maybe 11 until they came down (and explained what was happening).”

Apollo Kitchens continued to trade for two weeks before liquidators pulled the plug, closing down one factory in Western Sydney and another in Newcastle shut down.

Staff were called to an all-hands meeting in the afternoon where they learned their employment was over, effective immediately.

James, who has worked at the company for 14 months, thinks he is owed around $15,000 from unpaid wages and unpaid super.

He said he had not received any superannuation for the entire time he worked at Apollo Kitchens.

“I’ve got a mortgage, I’ve got a family, I’ve got a little bit of savings, I’ve applied for some jobs, it has taken a long toll,” he said.

Staff in the head office, which was upstairs from the Western Sydney factory plant, were kept employed for longer.

But then on March 27, Brownlen Pty Ltd also went into voluntary liquidation and all of them were also let go.

“I didn’t even know we were under different companies,” James said.

Each Apollo business is a separate entity and a number of them continue to trade, such as Apollo Holdings (Australia) Pty Ltd, Apollo Holding (NSW) Pty Ltd, Apollo Joinery Showrooms Pty Ltd, Apollo Kitchens & Sons Pty Ltd, Apollo Pastoral Pty Ltd and Apollo Stairs Pty Ltd.

“It’s very clever in the way it was set up,” Ron said.

Apollo Kitchens liquidators said there was no point to keep operating the factory as all the equipment was owned by Apollo Holdings.

An insider who works in the manufacturing industry, who wishes to remain anonymous, is out of pocket from Apollo’s collapse.

“I’m seeing this industry absolutely crumble,” he told news.com.au.

News.com.au contacted the sole director of Apollo Kitchens and Brownlen, Peter Bader, for comment.

It comes as another group of manufacturing companies went bust at the end of last year owing nearly $80 million.

News.com.au reported that 11 companies linked to GDK Group went into liquidation.

Many staff had no idea of the extent of the different arms of the business.

*Names withheld over privacy concerns

alex.turner-cohen@news.com.au