The collapse of agribusiness company Timbercorp under the weight of its $930 million debt has already revealed numerous related party dealings with founder and former CEO, Robert Hance, and its well-connected Board of Directors, including former chair, Rod Fitzroy.

However, Crikey has learned that Robert Hance’s son, Tony Hance, who was employed by Timbercorp in its Sales and Marketing Division, received a redundancy payout from the insolvent group weeks before the company was placed in voluntary administration on 23 April 2009.

A spokesperson for Timbercorp told Crikey that Hance was made redundant in April 2009 but was unable to provide the exact date of Hance’s departure. The spokesperson noted that many of Hance’s co-workers in the Sales and Marketing team had been made redundant since December 2008 due to a significant slowdown in MIS sales, confirming that the redundancy paid to Hance was “similar” in quantum to the payouts made to other employees.

Timbercorp was unable to explain why Hance was not made redundant at the same time as other Sales and Marketing staff in December 2008 (Hance would have continued to receive remuneration from Timbercorp between December and April) or why the redundancy payment was made so shortly prior to the company being placed in administration. Crikey understands that other Timbercorp staff who remain employed with the group risk losing a portion of their entitlements, with the company’s assets being dwarfed by its significant debts.

When questioned whether Timbercorp’s administrators may consider reclaiming the payment made to Hance, the spokesperson noted that the administrators have not yet began their “investigation phase”.

It had previously been revealed that Timbercorp has paid former Chairman, Rod Fitzroy, $11.44 million in cash and [issued him with] three million shares for his 12.5% stake in private company Almonds Australia. Fitzroy also received a five-year $2 million consulting agreement from Timbercorp which was later terminated, with the VRC Chairman instead receiving a lump sum payment of $744,000.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported earlier this month that Timbercorp founders Hance and David Muir, had made almost $10 million over nine years due to a series of deals with the company.

Hance’s stake in Timbercorp, now worthless, was once valued at more than $200 million. Hance was however able to offload more than 700,000 Timbercorp shares in the year before it was placed in administration.

Peter Fray

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