THE NSW government has launched legal action against Nathan Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group to recover almost $600,000 in unpaid stadium rent for the Newcastle Knights, after saying it had a responsibility to protect taxpayers’ money.
HSG, the owner of the Newcastle Knights and Jets, is the latest in a list of Mr Tinkler’s companies facing legal action over unpaid debts.
A spokesman for Sport and Recreation Minister Graham Annesley said yesterday that ‘‘legal recovery action has commenced’’.
‘‘Venues NSW has been instructed to take whatever action is necessary,’’ he said.
The latest instalment in the saga between HSG and state body Venues NSW, could see the owner of the Hunter’s flagship sporting clubs facing a wind-up application. HSG has failed to meet several key payment deadlines and was served with a letter of demand for some of the debt by the government in September.
Venues NSW chairman John Quayle said yesterday the stadium manager had been unable to negotiate a resolution.
‘‘HSG has continued to claim the debt will not be paid until a new hiring agreement [for Hunter Stadium] has been finalised, this is despite HSG last month defaulting on a legally binding agreement to pay the agreed outstanding amount,’’ he said.
‘‘The debt is not, and has never been, legally tied to a new hiring agreement.’’
It is understood that the initial debt, for the Knights stadium hire and catering, was $883,000.
A further $400,000, believed to be for returfing the stadium, remains in dispute.
HSG agreed to pay a $500,000 instalment on October 31 but missed that deadline. The next day, after being contacted by the government, HSG deposited $300,000 and agreed to settle the outstanding amount by November 21, but no money has been received.
Shadow minister for the Hunter Linda Burney said sporting fans needed the matter finalised: ‘‘This impasse needs to be resolved as soon as possible – in the interests of providing certainty to Knights and Jets fans.’’
Last month HSG spokesman Richard Fisk was reported as saying payments had been held back in a bid to fast-track negotiations for a new 10-year lease agreement for Hunter Stadium.
‘‘The reason we have held back some rent payments was to give us some bargaining power in bringing the negotiations to a conclusion,’’ he said, adding that negotiations had been ‘‘frustrating’’ but the deal was close to being finalised.
HSG joins fellow Mr Tinkler’s companies facing legal action over debts. His private jet and helicopter have been repossessed by a receiver appointed to his aviation company, TGHA Aviation.
Two of Mr Tinkler’s private companies, Mulsanne Resources and Patinack Farm Administration, are in liquidation and another two companies, Tinkler Group Holdings Administration and Queen St Capital, are facing wind-up applications.
In May, Mr Tinkler’s largest asset, a 19.4per cent stake in Whitehaven Coal, was worth more than $1billion. After the coal price collapse, those shares are now worth around $600million, but there has been much speculation about how much money he may owe to lenders.
The Herald tried to contact Tim Allerton, a PR spokesman for Mr Tinkler, but received no response last night.