TROY Palmer was a man of ambition.
In 2008, the Maitland-born chartered accountant made an unsolicited approach that changed his life. He reached out to Nathan Tinkler – a decision that resulted in him becoming the trusted lieutenant to the suddenly cashed-up mining tycoon.
But in August 2014, it was all falling apart, especially his relationship with Mr Tinkler, an erratic former Muswellbrook electrician who, according to BRW magazine, became Australia's youngest billionaire in 2011, only to be declared bankrupt five years later.
Now Mr Palmer himself is trying to avoid bankruptcy by striking a deal with his creditors over more than $27 million of debts.
Next month Mr Palmer's creditors will be asked to agree to a “personal insolvency agreement” that would see his wife, Emma, pay $120,000 to settle her husband's debts, the equivalent of paying less than half a cent in the dollar.
According to documents filed to the Australian Financial Security Authority, Palmer’s assets include a second-hand BMW worth $20,000 that he owes $10,763 on, as well as $2002 in a Commonwealth Bank account and $59 in another bank account.
The former Tinkler Group chief financial officer and Tinkler Sports Group chief executive listed his occupation as “unemployed” and “accountant”.
According to the statement of affairs document lodged by Mr Palmer he does not own any property or shares. He lives in a Merewether house purchased by his wife in early 2015, just months after the split from Mr Tinkler, for $1.75 million.
The trustee of the insolvency agreement, Chad Rapsey, of Rapsey Griffiths, said there were six known creditors owed $27 million.
“At the creditors' meeting they'll vote on his compromise, or proposal he's putting forward,” he said. “Creditors are the tax office and former companies he was a director of where liquidators have got claims against him for a couple of things.”
The debt also includes a $90,000 unsecured personal loan to GH Finance Group and $15,000 in legal fees owed to Newcastle’s Laycock Burke Castaldi Lawyers. GH Finance Group is owned by billionaire retail veteran and Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey, who loaned millions to Mr Tinkler when his business empire began to falter. The Newcastle Herald attempted to contact Mr Harvey on Friday.
A further $1.779 million is owed to the ATO for director penalty notices from 2010 to 2014. This type of notice is issued by the ATO to make company directors personally liable for outstanding employee superannuation and pay-as-you-go tax.
Mr Rapsey said it was unclear which companies the penalty notices related to as he was waiting to receive them from the ATO.
The largest of the liabilities was $20 million owed to Ocean Street Holdings, which is one of Mr Tinkler’s companies that was placed in liquidation in 2015.
Nature of the debt is listed as “insolvent trading claims”, along with a $2.5 million debt owed to Newcastle Jets Football Operations and a $2.6 million debt to Thoroughbred Administration, both former Tinkler Group companies which are in liquidation that Mr Palmer was a director of.
Asked if he operated more than one company in the last five years, Mr Palmer stated on the forms “over 80 companies as part of my employment contract”.
Mr Rapsey said part of his job was to determine if the claims from the liquidators were enforceable.
The Herald reported in March 2016 that Mr Palmer was being chased by the tax department for a $1.7 million debt owed by Thoroughbred Administration, which was part of Mr Tinkler's failed thoroughbred horse empire Patinack Farm. Mr Palmer argued at the time that he had “no real power” in his job, “other than what I was told to do by Mr Tinkler”, and claimed that it is the one-time mining tycoon who should be “made liable for the outstanding tax”.
Documents lodged in the NSW Supreme Court revealed the tax department claimed the company accumulated the $1.7 million tax debt in the period that Mr Palmer was a director between 2012 and 2014, and that he was liable because an administrator had not yet been appointed.
Thoroughbred Administration was set up in 2012 to employ staff during the collapse of Patinack Farm.
In his defence, Mr Palmer argued that he became a director of the company when Mr Tinkler left Australia to live in Singapore, and “was under the direction and control” of Mr Tinkler “at all times”. He claimed that as a director he “had no real power to make the company do anything other than what I was told to do by Mr Tinkler”.
In May last year, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission banned Mr Tinkler, his sister Donna Dennis and Mr Palmer from managing companies for between three years and four years, citing “multiple serious failures” in their duty as directors of companies that included some from the Patinack Farm group and the Newcastle Jets.
ASIC said they failed to “prevent the companies from trading while insolvent”, didn't ensure the companies paid their taxes and had “allowed one of the companies to deliberately operate at a loss”.
Mr Palmer said he was unable to comment until after the creditors’ meeting.