Ailing chocolate chain Max Brenner given last-minute lifeline

Max Brenner stores around the country have been earmarked for closure.
Max Brenner stores around the country have been earmarked for closure.

An eleventh-hour agreement appears to have rescued the Max Brenner chocolate cafe brand in Australia.

Liquidator BDO Australia announced it had found a new licensee had been found for the brand’s Australian operations.

BDO’s Business Restructuring Partner, Andrew Sallway says: “We are pleased to confirm that a new operator – Tozer & Co – have acquired the licence for Max Brenner in Australia.”

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Max Brenner stores will be kept open and trading while the transaction s finalised, BDO says in a statement.

Tozer & Co is the diversified family investment vehicle of David and Craig Tozer. Craig Tozer sits on the board of restaurant business craveable brands and is CEO of Oporto.

The news of a new licensee came after it appeared the Max Brenner was set to disappear in Australia after the New York-headquartered company terminated the former franchise’s licence.

Max Brenner was placed into administration earlier this month with poor sales and a tough retail environment affecting more than 600 jobs and 37 stores around Australia. Some 20 of the unprofitable stores were earmarked for closure.

Local Max Brenner chain owners, husband and wife rich-listers Tom and Lilly Haikin, blamed escalating costs and tighter retail trade for its demise.

But McGrathNicol partners Barry Kogan, Kathy Sozou and Jason Preston last night said their appointment as administrators to MB Australia Pty Ltd (MB Australia) had concluded, after a court had ordered the business be placed into liquidation.

“MB Australia operated under a licence agreement granted by Max Brenner Industries Limited … for the use of certain intellectual property, including the use of the ‘Max Brenner’ brand,” the administrators said in a statement.

“Prior to the administrators’ appointment, the licensor and former licensor were pursuing an application for the winding up of MB Australia in the Supreme Court of Queensland at Brisbane”.

“Prior to the adjourned hearing commencing, the licensor terminated the licence agreement on the grounds of default, the default being the appointment of administrators to MB Australia,” the statement said.

Following the termination of the licence agreement, the court made the orders sought by the licensor and former licensor, and appointed Andrew Sallway, Helen Newman and Nicholas Martin of BDO as liquidators.

The collapse of Max Brenner in Australia is the latest in a long line of recent retail failures, including Toys R Us, Rhodes & Beckett, Marcs, David Lawrence, Pumpkin Patch, Payless Shoes, Topshop, Oroton, Herringbone and Maggie T.

The chocolate chain was founded in 1996 in Israel, by Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner, and the Australian arm is a franchise.

The company’s Israeli origins made Max Brenner the focus of a heated protest in Australia and an attempt by activists to boycott the chain.

Creditors and employees have been advised to contact the liquidators.

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