Bestjet founder breaks silence on shock collapse of online travel agency


The founder of failed online travel agency Bestjet has broken her silence, blaming the “new ownership” for the shock collapse that has left hundreds of customers thousands of dollars out of pocket.

Customers’ travel plans and hip pockets are being compromised

In an exclusive statement to nine.com.au, Rachel James said Bestjet was a “profitable” and “multi-million dollar business” before it was sold to McVicker International on November 2.

“It is devastating to learn that customers’ travel plans and hip pockets are being compromised due to poor management by McVicker International and questionable actions from consolidators, banks and airlines to recoup funds,” she said.

Bestjet, a budget airfare company, went into administration on December 18.

Scores of out-of-pocket Australians have turned to nine.com.au for help over cancelled flights.

More than 1000 have signed up to a Facebook group set up by Bestjet customer Kate Ryder to “demand accountability.

Ms James said in her statement that Bestjet “followed stringent operational, financial and industry protocols” under her management and that the sale to McVicker International was above board.

She said she decided to sell Bestjet more than a year ago to grow the business and it was placed for sale in January 2018.

“Ten months later, my team participated in the formal due diligence process in the sale to McVicker International, with a two-month audit and business advice provided by BDO preceding the handover,” she said in her statement.

“We simply cannot believe the devastation caused by the actions and inactions taken by Robert McVicker, with each day of inefficient management costing the business an average of $2.5 million and resulting in the loss of an Australian business.”

When nine.com.au contacted McVicker International for comment, a spokesman sent a copy of a statement Robert McVicker read out at a creditors meeting in Brisbane on January 2.

He said in that statement that an industry compliance audit was overdue at the time he acquired Bestjet.

“Upon acquisition, our priority … became to complete an overdue industry standard compliance Audit.    At the time we engaged an independent auditor, however this audit was later rescinded. I believe this was due to information provided by the former business operator not being able to relied upon,” he said.

“Later in my tenure, we were told a $3.2m payment would be transferred from Bestjet Singapore (an entity outside of the Bestjet Groups control) on or before the 17th of December, however this did not materialise.  I was then legally obliged as director to place the Bestjet Group into voluntary administration.   

“Notwithstanding I had a legal obligation to place the Bestjet group into voluntary administration, I felt doing so was the only way a thorough investigation could occur.”

Mr McVicker also said in his statement his reputation has been “irretrievably damaged” because of his involvement with Bestjet.

Ms James is the wife of former Air Australia boss Michael James.

She founded Bestjet in 2012 just weeks after the airline collapsed with debts of up to $100 million.

Administrators Pilot Partners said in a creditors report that Mr James was involved in the operations of Bestjet.

Bestjet was sold to McVicker International in November last year, but six weeks later was placed under the voluntary administration of Pilot Partners.

The administrator said Bestjet, at this stage of its investigations, owes about $7 million to creditors.

Industry insiders expect this to grow to between $20 and $30 million.

Bestjet customer Ms Ryder said Ms James’ response was “laughable”.

“Ms James’ attempts to distance herself and her family from the collapse of Bestjet are laughable given that her husband Michael James was employed up until the time … it went into administration,” she told nine.com.au.



Source link Finance News Australia

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