Dozens of potential buyers come forward for Max Brenner, meanwhile employees owed millions in unpaid wages, super

Max Brenner

Max Brenner has fallen into voluntary administration. Source: AAP/Tracey Nearmy.

More than 40 potential buyers have come forward to express interest in chocolate cafe chain Max Brenner, which fell into the hands of voluntary administrators late last month.

At a meeting of creditors yesterday, administrators for McGrathNicol said a number of “credible trade players” had come forward with an interest in buying the business as efforts to secure the brand’s future in Australia progress.

The business continues to trade through the administration, but 20 unprofitable stores have already been closed less than a week after administrators said it would be “business as usual” for the chain.

About 250 employees have been terminated as a result of the closures, about a third of what was a 664-strong workforce.

Financial statements show the business owes an estimated $33.1 million to creditors and made a $5 million loss for financial year 18, amid what administrators have described as “escalating costs and a tighter retail trade”.

Reports have surfaced in the last week that some staff were not paid super or correct wages, with one employee reportedly telling the company was “toxic”.

McGrathNicol declined to comment on the reports when asked, but financial statements show Max Brenner owes a significant amount of money to workers.

The business owed employees an estimated $5.8 million at the time of McGrathNicol’s appointment, including $2.1 million in outstanding superannuation and $1 million in wages.

There are about 700 people with outstanding claims for unpaid super that left the business prior to it falling into administration.

Administrators have communicated with employees and commenced an investigation into the business that will seek to ascertain whether the business traded while insolvent.

Under the terms of the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Scheme employees are eligible for unpaid wages of up to 13 weeks, unpaid leave, payment in lieu of notice (up to five weeks) and redundancy pay if the business is liquidated.

They will, however, not be eligible to claim unpaid super contributions and are only eligible for the guarantee scheme if they are Australian permanent residents.

The Australian franchise for Max Brenner is owned by Tom and Lilly Haikin, who brought the Israeli-born brand to Australia in 1999.

They grew the business to 40-stores across the country prior to appointing administrators and even had plans to open up to seven more locations.

Internationally, Max Brenner has stores in the United States, Israel, Japan and Russia.

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