BSL franchisees to conduct secret ballot for new owner

By James Wells

BRISBANE: BSL franchisees will conduct a secret ballot this week to vote for one of three options to help decide the new owner of the company’s brands and franchise business – the Everard Johnson-backed retail consortium or the proposal put forward by the $1.5 billion Leading Edge Group.

Yesterday a teleconference was held involving the integration of three simultaneous meetings within PricewaterhouseCoopers offices in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney as well as 100 franchisees who listened in on the phone.

The Brisbane meeting attracted 25 people while the Sydney and Melbourne meetings both attracted around eight people each.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers receiver, Phil Carter, the purpose of the information meeting was to partly give franchisees the opportunity to hear directly from the two parties vying for the business – a retailer consortium led by
BSL retailer Everard Johnson which is supported by BSL CEO Guy Houghton and another bid by Keith Lane from the Leading Edge group.

The meeting also provided Carter, who is manager and receiver of the BSL businesses, an indication of the feedback from franchisees which may assist with a decision regarding the imminent sale of the business.

Carter pointed out that both parties have made confidential offers which could be accepted as quickly as this week
rather than over the next few weeks.

While the meeting was not designed to deliver a winner, Carter made it clear that the information gathered from franchisees on the day and through subsequent communication would help frame the decision making process.

A secret ballot will now occur which will provide the receiver and manager with one of three options – support for one party or the other or for those retailers looking for a fast resolution to the sale – a vote for both. An official result of the secret ballot will not be announced.

While there has been a lot of interest from other parties in the sale of the BSL brands, Carter told the teleconference that these proposals were the most organised.

Carter said that as the representative of the bank, his motivation is to find the best possible price in the circumstances and he would like to conclude the deal over the next few days.

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