In an exclusive interview Peter Wagener has explained the importance of staff as his former businesses re-emerge from liquidation under new ownership.
The businesses that entered administration in September and then liquidation in November have re-emerged under a new entity owned by an unidentified consortium that has secured the future of the business now named All Flags Signs & Banners.
Wagener said the new business started trading on 18 December, but while this was pleasing, the timing was not ideal.
“It was not the best time as finding tradies to complete work at that time of year was not ideal and suppliers were also in wind-down mode for Christmas.”
Wagener has confirmed he and his wife Rhonda “have no financial interest in the relaunched business of any description”, however, they will continue to work for the new organisation.
“I have been asked to stay on as general manager and Rhonda is operations manager. My two boys have also continued with the business – one will be floor manager and the other is a full trained installer,” Wagener said.
“The liquidation of the businesses has cost us personally everything. We need to rebuild the business from the ground up – and we will do it – one flag at a time,” Wagener said.
“What is more important is the retention of the jobs of the employees. They have worked so hard and been so loyal, we had to see them looked after.”
According to Wagener 27 of around 40 staff members prior to administration have been retained, so this means there are opportunities to recruit additional staff to the newly created business.
“We are looking for more staff in a very tight labour market. We are looking for roll-to-roll and flat-bed printer operators, industrial textile finishers and cutters as well as installers, customer service and sales staff.”
Wagener said he was disappointed that he was unable to keep his initial promise that all creditors would be paid in full.
“While we were able to preserve the majority of employees’ jobs through the buyout by the consortium from the liquidators, it does mean our original intention to pay all suppliers in full under the Deed of Company Arrangement (DOCA) is impossible. Finance on all machines has been cleared by the new consortium and all secured suppliers have been repaid in full. Unfortunately, due to the costs of the administrators which totalled over $360,000, we were unable to repay unsecured creditors under the liquidation scenario.
“There were a number of undertakings that we made in good faith that we are not going to be able to make and this is very disappointing as I am one of those people that likes to do what you say you are going to do. It does affect your credibility unfortunately.”
Wagener has confirmed the new owners have been able to re-negotiate the lease with the landlord that was the final straw that resulted in the business going into liquidation. The businesses went into administration due to an issue with unpaid tax obligations to the ATO over the Covid period.
Wagener said that despite the recent challenges, the new business has experienced a recent influx of new printing work.
“Yesterday was one of our biggest days of writing new business in four months – it is almost as if nothing has happened,” he said.
“There are way more positives than negatives and if the business continues in its current trajectory, then we will be in a good position. Rhonda and I are also planning to attend the FESPA exhibition in Amsterdam in March.”
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