Jet-setting family’s billion-dollar business in tatters

 

Among the commuter flights landing at Bundaberg Airport in late January was a million-dollar private jet owned by the Greensill clan.

The twin-engine Cessna 550 Citation Bravo, which was one of several Greensill private jets, had over the years made regular visits to the sugar city that remained the corporate headquarters of Greensill Capital, the family's financial empire.

But that January flight would be its last, with the billion-dollar business founded by Lex Greensill now in tatters. Earlier this month, the Cessna was transferred to a company controlled by the founder of Brisbane-based Alliance Airlines. Another jet, a Dassault Falcon registered in the Isle of Man, also has been sold as part of a fire sale of assets.

The trappings of wealth of the clan, who have farmed the rich soil around "Bundy" for three generations, are ebbing away leaving growing concern about the possible impact of the corporate collapse on the city.

While it was the money markets of London and Wall Street where the real business of the company was undertaken, Bundaberg always remained the nominal home of Greensill Capital.

For Lex Greensill, the son of a cane and sweet potato farmer, private jets allowed him to travel quickly and in comfort between his two very different worlds. They also allowed him to meet up with powerful friends, including steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta, who visited Bundaberg to discuss plans to rescue the steel industries of Australia and Britain.

Lex Greensill not only remains a regular visitor to Bundaberg, where his parents and siblings still live, but he also has a home - a $4 million mansion known locally as the Glasshouse - in nearby seaside Bargara.

 

One of the Greensill clan's private jets.
One of the Greensill clan's private jets.

The Greensills are considered exemplary corporate citizens in Bundaberg where their extensive farming business is one of the city's biggest employers, producing tonnes of sugar, sweet potatoes and peanuts each year.

Lex Greensill still uses a local firm of accountants, the Ulton Group, listing its modest office in Woondooma St, Bundaberg, as the registered office of Greensill Capital.

"Ulton don't simply provide us with a service, they are our partners," according to a statement from Mr Greensill on the Ulton website.

"I have worked with the leading accounting firms in London, New York and Hong Kong over the years. Despite that I still make Ulton my first port of call for business counsel."

Ulton chairman Daryl Corpe remains a director of several Greensill family companies, including Greensill Farming Group, Peter Greensill Farms and the Greeensill Corporation.

Mr Corpe, who is chairman of several local groups including the Bundaberg Health Services Foundation, was unavailable for comment.

According to ASIC records, several overseas-based shareholders of Geensill Capital list the Ulton office, as their registered address. They include Joe Sultoon, the UK-based operations director of Greensill Capital, and Ilkka Tales, a Singapore-based Greensill executive.

With Greensill Capital now in "severe financial distress" after being unable to repay a $140m loan to Credit Suisse, local Bundaberg residents are bracing for the possible impact of the collapse on the city's economy.

Local real estate agent Charlie Winten said the Greensills had been "huge supporters" of the local community over the years, pumping millions into sustainable farming. "We are close to the Great Barrier Reef and they have spent bucket loads of money on erosion control to prevent run off," said Mr Winten.

Mr Winten also praised the family for recently opening a green waste facility allowing local people to drop off their waste to be recycled into mulch.

He said that while there would be a certain amount of concern about the collapse of Greensill Capital, assurances had been given that the farming operation would remain unscathed.

Originally published as Jet-setting family's billion-dollar business in tatters



DON'T MISS OUT: Activate your bonus for big rewards

DON'T MISS OUT: Activate your bonus for big rewards

Did you know you can get even more – for free?