Australia’s most notorious prostitute, Madison Ashton — aka Christine McQueen — has closed down her high-end brothel, McQueen’s Showroom, in Sydney just one year after it opened its doors in a blaze of publicity.
There is growing speculation the move is the first step in a process to declare herself bankrupt as she manages a reported $1 million in court costs awarded to the Pratt Estate after her failed attempt to gain a slice of deceased billionaire Richard Pratt’s fortune. Pratt was her former lover. Ashton announced the closure to her 8889 Twitter devotees last Thursday, advising them:
“For all those who supported McQueens Showroom, I’m sad to inform you of its closure today.”
When pressed by some of her followers on why she was closing the business, she said:
“a poor lease was our ultimate downfall. I think I’ll put all my energies into my health and CMQ escorts … I think I’ll put all my energies into my health and CMQ escorts x”
CMQ Escorts is Ashton’s main vehicle in the sex industry, where she and around a dozen other high-end prostitutes charge punters between $500 and $1500 an hour. When one of her followers asked whether she was still working as an escort, she replied: “Yes, I’m still escorting.”
But Crikey understands Ashton has been speaking to accounting, legal and insolvency experts canvassing the possibility of a personal bankruptcy because she can’t pay her legal fees. It’s understood Ashton has most of her assets in a trust, with her children Indra, 15, and Xavier, 12, being the only beneficiaries. The trust was set up well before the litigation with Pratt, making it extremely difficult for the bankruptcy trustee to recover any money or assets to be repaid to creditors such as the Pratt Estate.
One expert told Crikey Ashton would also have to resign as a director of the corporate entity that trades as CMQ Escorts because, under the Corporations Act, bankrupts are prevented from managing corporations unless they obtain approval from the court.
Ashton is currently the only director and shareholder of Metropolitan Services Pty Ltd, with the principal place of business listed in Crown Street, Woolloomooloo. “She would need to resign from her role as director and put someone savvy into the position,” the expert said. “She would then simply become an employee from her escorting work like the other girls.”
As a bankrupt, Ashton (with two dependents) could earn up to $65,481.96 before half of every dollar over that income threshold is paid to the bankruptcy trustee. This could be a challenge; she once told Crikey she earned up to $25,000 for just one weekend, and a rough estimate of her annual turnover from escort and brothel activities suggests a figure around the $1.5 million mark.
If she goes down the road to bankruptcy she could appoint her own trustee, however it remains to be seen whether lawyers for Jeanne Pratt, Arnold Bloch Leibler, would agree with that. The expert told Crikey: “Jeanne may play hard ball with this. She might throw the trustee $50,000 and say, ‘I want a thorough investigation into her affairs’.”
Comments were sought from Ashton and Arnold Bloch Leibler but both did not respond before deadline.