Betta’s bad boy Billy Field burns Telstra’s $22 million

By James Wells

SYDNEY: A former Betta Electrical franchisee, Billy Field, has been linked to a failed business venture that has lost Telstra $22 million.

An article published in yesterday’s Australian Financial Review, titled “Telstra loses $22 million in venture linked to bankrupt” alleges that Bill Field, who is also known as William Lindsay Field and is a former Betta Electrical store owner, has ripped off Australia’s largest company to the tune of $22 million after three companies related to mobile handheld terminals were placed into administration.

“One company started in September 2005, called Cabepay, proposed developing mobile handheld terminals for use in taxis. Another company, Mobepay, was established to sell the terminals to companies with roving employees, such as pizza delivery boys and salesmen. Another, Think Systems, was set up to develop the software,” the article said.

“Telstra provided 1,000 hand-held mobile devices and agreed to let the business use its telecommunications network. Telstra subsidiary, Sensis, meanwhile struck a deal to provide Cabepay with content, such as street maps and directory listings.”

However, the article claims that within four months all three of the companies were placed into administration, with Telstra and Sensis as the two main creditors. No returns to creditors would be made.

Both Telstra and Sensis are owed large sums of money, the article claimed, with $8.5 million and $5.8 million owing to the creditors from goods and services sold and rendered respectively.

“The insolvency firm handling ht eliquidation of Think Systems, Jirsh Sutherland, said Telstra had been tied up in that company too, along with Japanese financier, Sojitz Corporation,” claimed the article.

Sojitz had apparently provided more than $100 million in credit to order goods from Telstra.

The article stated that the Japanese group, which itself lost $10 million, relied on Telstra and claims that the out-of-court settlement between the two is understood to have been significant.

Telstra has also filed a damages claim against Think Systems for $8 million in lost profits, arguing that the company provided misleading statements and misrepresented its position.

Billy Field has since disappeared. The claims that Fields’ trustee in bankruptcy stated that more than $3 million dollars was owed to creditors and that Field knew of  other failed companies in which companies were owed over $10 million.

In August last year, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) disqualified three company directors, including Field,  from managing companies following their involvement in failed companies.

“ASIC has banned bankrupt electronic products developer and supplier Mr Lindsay Field (also known as Bill Field) of Dural, from managing corporations for three years,” a statement from ASIC said.

“ASIC banned Mr Field following an investigation into his involvement in the management of four failed companies, Think Systems Pty Ltd, Energy Appliances Australia Pty Ltd, Bill Field Investments Pty Ltd, and Macquarie Centre Betta Pty Ltd.”

Think Systems was involved in the development of a telecommunications payment method used in taxis, while the other three companies were involved in the acquisition and management of electrical and telecommunications retail stores.

An excess of $13.5 million was owed after the four companies were wound up, with less than 50 cents in the dollar paid to creditors. Field also failed to pay statutory debts and employee entitlements.

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