The ANZ is
getting mentioned in dispatches as being the major lender to Multiplex
with a $650 million exposure that is furrowing a few banker brows as
the losses on Wembley continue to blow out.

ANZ has long been
the major lender to former billionaire John Roberts and Crikey can now
tell the story that his divorce in the mid 1990s sparked a good deal of
concern.

ANZ was worried and apparently sent a team from the now
defunct Arthur Andersen to Multiplex’s Victorian headquarters in North
Carlton to give a second opinion about the solvency of the building
empire which was obviously about to lose a chunk of its equity to the
former Mrs Roberts.

Back in those days, Multiplex was a Perth-based builder trying to make
it big on the Eastern seaboard. Now it has 80 jobs across Australia and
has come a cropper trying to take on the world in Britain.

ANZ took a similar tough line with the Grollo brothers in the early
1990s, forcing them to sell assets in Melbourne such as Shell House and
a 50% stake in 120 Collins St when the Kennett Government refused to
pay the exorbitant $32.6 million a year rent bill on the new
headquarters for the old SECV in Flinders St.

Gocon never forgave ANZ for the fire sale and much of the business was
shifted to National Australia Bank, which might itself be a tad nervous
about the family-owned business given its huge exposure to Melbourne’s
thuggish construction unions and the wobbling apartment market.

The Multiplex relationship with ANZ survived the divorce worries of the
early to mid 1990s, but ANZ is now once again taking a close look at
the business. Could there be another divorce in the wind, similar to
what happened between the ANZ and the Grollo brothers?

Relationships between bankers and construction companies are never easy.