Maclean Computing sells assets to Maclean Technology

Liquidator says competitive process of selling failed company Maclean Computing's assets was speedy because of publicity

Maclean Technology Ltd founder Chris Maclean says he bought the assets of Maclean Computing – which went into liquidation on Friday – following a competitive process.

“Myself and a business partner have established a new company and that company will buy the new assets, other than the debtors – we did that through a competitive process run by the liquidator,” he says.

The liquidator, Damien Grant of Waterstone Insolvency, confirms a competitive process took place in five days, but wouldn’t say how many bids were in the running, or what was paid for the assets. When asked if the sale was in keeping with the ‘Phoenix Law’, or sections 386A-F of the Companies Act (which govern whether the assets of a company in liquation can be bought by affiliated parties), Grant replied: “I hope it would be, otherwise I’m going to prison.”

Grant wouldn’t say how much the assets had been sold for, but he says the process was hastened by publicity that the liquidation received on the Computerworld website, including the article about competitor Code Blue making a play for Maclean Computing's customers.

“The stuff that your company was posting on its website did contribute to the professional liquidators moving quickly, absolutely,” he says. “That sounds like a criticism, I didn’t mean that, but that definitely contributed to the need for speed.”

Grant expects to publish the liquidators report tomorrow. He says the total amount owing to between 30 and 40 Maclean Computing creditors “will be around the $1 million mark”.

Maclean Computing was founded by Allan Maclean in 1993 and his son Chris Maclean took charge in 2009. According to Chris Maclean the company struggled in the “post-recession environment” and the situation was made worse by an alleged theft of over $500,000 from the former financial controller. That case is currently before the courts.

“Allan is a bit of a legend in the industry and (I had) some big shoes to fill,” Chris Maclean says. “He and I work great together. What I can say is I’ve picked the business up in pretty poor shape having gone through those dramas and I’ve increased profits by hundred of thousands of dollars since that year on year.”

Maclean Computing’s 50 staff were told about the liquidation on Monday night, and yesterday evening, when the asset sale had been approved, Chris and Allen Maclean took them out for drink to toast the new company.

So could Maclean Computing have been saved?

“Anyone who knows us would know that we did absolutely everything possible for the first company to survive,” says Chris Maclean.

“And that included Allan selling his house and his brothers and daughters putting in their life savings to get it through, but eventually we just couldn’t make it work and it wasn’t a choice we had. So from then on, rather than try to make the old company survive once it went into liquidation, at that point it was a case of ‘how do we preserve these staff jobs and a lot of customers rely on us for essential services. So to not make an effort with that regard would be pretty irresponsible.”

Chris Maclean says his business partner in Maclean Technology, Matthew Bellingham, is a director of Auckland accounting firm Hayes Knight.

“He has been my personal financial advisor for a while, helped me put together the bids for the business and during that process he agreed to come on as a partner because we couldn’t quite get there in terms of the money, so he’s put up his own equity to do that. Together we managed to get a competitive bid together.”

According to the Companies Office, Maclean Technology Ltd was registered in November 2011.

Late yesterday Chris Maclean issued the following media statement. In view of the high level of interest that online articles about Maclean Computing have received this week, Computerworld has published it in full below:

CHRIS MACLEAN BUYS MCL ASSETS – CUSTOMERS AND STAFF REMAIN LOYAL

Following the liquidation of Maclean Computing Ltd (MCL) last Friday, all staff are expected to be re-hired by Maclean Technology Ltd, a new entity formed by Chris Maclean and business partner Matthew Bellingham.

Chris was formerly CEO of Maclean Computing Ltd, but despite returning MCL to profit was unable to manage the large debt incurred by the former company falling prey to the theft of its former Financial Controller, on top of the losses as they adjusted to the new post-recession environment.

“This is a competitive industry and margins aren’t what they used to be. Paying debt related costs eventually got the better of us, despite making every effort to address them over the last two years,” says Maclean.

Asked whether many creditors would suffer from the liquidation, Maclean states “unfortunately in those circumstances there will almost certainly be some creditors who miss out. We are extremely sorry for this as they were all valued suppliers and the last thing we wanted to do was for them to miss out. I think the most important thing is that they understand that there was nothing Machiavellian about what has happened. We tried absolutely everything to sort them out including hundreds of thousands of dollars from the wider family. All that is now lost, and there is nothing good about that. My best course of action now is to start again, do my best to recreate some wealth for my family and to generate business for those happy to work with Maclean Technology going forward.”

“Once we’d started to come to terms with these losses and made the difficult phone calls, the attention turned to preserving the jobs of our loyal staff, and the environments of our customers.”

The new entity has a bright future, having retained the vast majority of both staff and customers, and having been through the liquidation process, is free of the legacy debts plaguing its predecessor.

“We are extremely grateful for the incredible messages of support received from both customers and staff over the last couple of days,” says Maclean.

While Allan Maclean is sorry to see the end of Maclean Computing after over 18 years, he says that “it has been humbling to read the supportive messages flowing in”. Allan will continue to work for the new company. “With a better funding model in place, I believe Chris is perfectly positioned to take the new entity to new heights. Since taking the top post in 2009, he has very substantially increased profits in the business, and with the debt related costs is looking forward to spending time and money on customers and staff, rather than debt management.”

Some of Maclean's competitors have been very active since the announcement, with Code Blue going so far as to launch a Maclean customer-acquisition campaign. “While generally the industry has been supportive, we’ve seen some pretty outrageous and vulture-like behaviour by some of our competitors. The best sales pitch so far goes to the sales person from a large competitor who claimed that all but five staff had left us. Pretty disappointing really, but I guess not every organisational culture is as ethical as what we have tried to maintain at Maclean’s”.

Maclean Technology will continue to operate out of the same premises.

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