ASIC targets former government minister Wooldridge over corporate listing controversy

Former federal health minister Michael Wooldridge has found himself in a tussle with the corporate watchdog, which is accusing him and several other directors of a failed retirement village group of breaching their duties.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is also targeting William Lewski, Mark Butler, Kim Jaques and Peter Clarke, who heads up the Victorian Government’s Urban Renewal Authority.

All served as directors of Australian Property Custodian Holdings, which ran Prime Retirement and the Aged Care Property Trust. More than 9,700 investors pumped more than $500 million into the trust.

ASIC suggests all five “failed to act in the best interests of the members of the Prime Trust”.

The company was listed for trading on the ASX in 2007, but the directors passed resolutions earlier allowing the listing to take place.

At the centre of the case is an allegation the directors proposed an amended constitution that would provide fee payments in the event the units were listed, and then directing the company to pay a listing fee of $33 million to managing director Bill Lewski.

Prime Trust collapsed into administration in October 2010, which SmartCompany reported on at the time. Lewski raised eyebrows by appointing his own administrators, days after three separate sets of receivers were appointed to retirement villages owned by the company.

“ASIC is seeking declarations that the directors, in their capacity as officers of APCHL (as the responsible entity of Prime Trust) breached their duties owed to members of Prime Trust,” it says.

ASIC is attempting to disqualify all directors from managing corporations and impose pecuniary penalties on each member.

Currently Michael Wooldridge sits on several boards, including the Vision Eye Institute, Australian Pharmaceutical Industries and the Royal Melbourne Tennis Club.

He retired from politics in 2001.




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