Malaysian businessman Seng Huang Lee.
Malaysian businessman Seng Huang Lee. BELINDA ROLLAND PHOTOGRAPHY © 2

The billionaire who holds a golf club’s fate in his hands

THE ultimate fate of golf at Peregian Springs may rest in the hands of a 41-year-old billionaire Malaysian businessman whose father has been jailed for dishonesty.

More than 80 members, some of whom paid up to $25,000 for a share in the club, gathered Monday afternoon to drink out their bar credit before administrator Gavin Morton closed the doors at 5pm, a move that also denies them playing rights.

Former board member Gary Kroeger who resigned two months ago said Tuesday the club had never made money and had always required financial support.

"I don't know whether it has a future,'' Mr Kroeger said. "I hope so."

A series of corporate buyouts and take overs has placed the Peregian residential development which borders the golf club firmly in the hands of the family interests of Lee Ming Tee who in 2004 pleaded guilty in a Hong Kong court to publishing consolidated accounts which misled shareholders.

He was sentenced to a year's imprisonment.

Described as a corporate raider with gleaming teeth Le Ming Tee who founded Malaysian conglomerate Mulpha, was a one-time associate of late Australian billionaire Kerry Packer.

Mulpha Australia owns, among other things Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast and Hayman Island as well as a string of Sydney commercial and residential property developments.

Tee's youngest son Seng Huang Lee, runs the company and is also the non executive chariman of Aveo which controls Peregian Springs Golf Holdings.

Holdings in turn owns the land and buildings of which the golf club is tenant.

The Peregian Springs residential development began in the mid 1990s, an initiative of local developers FKP.

Early purchasers paid a premium for golf frontage land spending well in excess of $1m on prestige homes.

Stage two of the development, known as Ridges, was subject to an appeal by Sunshine Coast Environment Council which led to court-imposed conditions in October 2005.

Golf club administrator Gavin Morton of Morton Solvency Accountants said Tuesday net wages alone were costing the club $15,000 a week.

He said he was still to see all the financials but that it appeared the club had relied on financial support for a long time.

"There might have been periods when it did trade cash positive but it has lost money over time,'' Mr Morton said.

He aims to deal with the club's assets as quickly as possible and shift from administration to liquidation to assist staff recoup entitlements.

Mr Morton said he expected an offer from entities associated with Aveo as well as other interested parties and would reconvene a meeting of creditors as soon as a sale was effected.

He spoke with Aveo representatives about the club's assets on Monday and had been served notices under the club's lease from lawyers representing Peregian Springs Golf Holdings.

Last December former CEO Declan McCollam wrote to Sunshine Coast Council urging it to allow rezoning of three parts of the golf course land from sport and recreation to allow residential development by FKP Residential Development - a wholly-owned Aveo subsiduary.

The deal was to secure $900,000 Mr McCollam said would have guaranteed viability for another three years by which time "will take the club into a positive trading position on current trading trends and will ensure the future of the club as an essential part of the community".

The formal rezoning application, which is expected to come before the council at its August ordinary meeting, attracted 921 objections.

A late 2015 application to reconfigure from one to three lots one land parcel already zoned residential within the golf course is still in the assessment process.

Mr Morton said an amount of $200,000 already paid into the club in relation to that parcel had been consumed by operating costs.

He said he made the decision to close the club when he saw the trading figures on Monday.


Q: Aveo entities are owner of the land and buildings that make up the clubhouse and course of the Peregian Springs Golf Club. What if any plans does it have to ensure a golf course continues to operate on the property?

STATEMENT from Aveo: Aveo Group is a shareholder in Peregian Springs Golf Holdings Limited (Holdings), which is the owner of the land at Peregian Springs Golf Club.

A different entity, Peregian Springs Golf Club Limited (Club), now in voluntary administration, leases the land including the golf clubhouse and golf course from Holdings. Club is a separate entity to Aveo and Holdings. Club is and has been solely responsible for the management of the golf club.

Under the voluntary administration process initiated by Club, decisions regarding the future of the golf club is a matter for the Administrator, Gavin Morton of Mortons Solvency Accountants of Brisbane and for the creditors of the golf club. It is the Administrator who is in control of Club. Aveo has been advised that the Administrator has ceased trading at Club but remains in possession and in control of the Club and its property.

Aveo recognises that matters concerning the different entities can be complicated and confusing and can lead to inaccurate assertions. It is Club, not Holdings, and Club through its Board elected by the members of the club, which has voluntarily entered into administration.

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