Chris and Marie’s Plant Farms, famous for owner Chris Lucas’s “Hello, hello” catchphrase and pink tutu and wand, is embroiled in a Supreme Court legal battle over the removal of assets from the collapsed business.
Chris and Marie’s Plant Farms went into administration in 2011 and a Deed of Company Arrangement required payment of $632,000 over four years.
But the business has failed to pay employee entitlements and owes over $200,000 to the Tax Office.
This hasn’t stopped Lucas opening a new business “Hello Hello Plants & Garden Supplies” in Melbourne’s Ascot Vale two weeks ago.
Lucas’ Hello Hello website announces “Ready for Spring, Chris and family are opening a new nursery under the Hello Hello banner at 448 Mt Alexander Rd Ascot Vale. We’re very exited to be back in the Essendon area since our heyday of wild plant sales at Essendon Fields and the Melbourne Showgrounds.”
In a judgment handed down in the Supreme Court on Friday, Justice Sifris found there had been a “material contravention” of the DOCA which facilitated the administration.
“The evidence also discloses and clearly establishes the systematic removal and transfer of assets out of the companies subject to the DOCA to another newly incorporated entity called Tuscan Australia Pty Ltd,” Justice Sifris found.
Justice Sifris terminated the DOCA and placed Chris and Marie’s Plant Farms under the control of court appointed liquidators, Andrew Yeo and Gess Rambaldi of Pitcher Partners.
The number listed on the Hello Hello website for Lucas just connects to Chris and Marie’s Plant Farm in Campbellfield.
There is no telephone number for the new Ascot Vale business and SmartCompany was unable to contact Lucas.
SmartCompany spoke to one of the three remaining employees in Campbellfield.
“We are the poor people; there are workers here who have lost all their entitlements,” the employee says.
“[Lucas] is still taking money off the internet, he is still selling plants through the website and customers call here asking when they get their deliveries of plants.”
Yeo told SmartCompany the liquidators have assumed control of the Hello Hello Group’s businesses in Monbulk and Campbellfield and have taken control of stock at the new Ascot Vale nursery.
“We are doing everything we can to stop them,” he says.
The liquidators will continue to trade the business “indefinitely” with a view to selling it.
“There is a stack of stock but you just won’t have someone wearing a tutu selling it,” Yeo says.