The phone call that almost killed Sheraton Mirage deal

The beachfront Sheraton Mirage resort on the Gold Coast. Picture: Sheraton.
The beachfront Sheraton Mirage resort on the Gold Coast. Picture: Sheraton.

A last-minute phone call changing the settlement venue for the $140 million sale of the Gold Coast Sheraton Mirage Resort preceded the deal falling over late last year, according to documents lodged in Queensland’s Supreme Court seeking to enforce the transaction of the high-profile asset.

According to an affidavit in support of the potential buyers, bankers for listed casino group The Star Entertainment Group and its joint venture partners had a cheque for more than $72 million for their part in the deal on the day of settlement.

Under the contract referred to in documents, the proposed buyer was little-known Chinese-backed Australia Wattle Development, and the seller, Gold Coast-based MiiResorts Group. It was due to settle on December 16.

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Australia Wattle Development last month applied for Supreme Court orders declaring the sale contract for the Mirage’s leasehold land, business agreements and the intellectual property agreement were all a “valid agreement” that was binding.

Affidavits in support of the application say lawyers attempting to settle the deal were advised of a change of venue about 4.57pm on the Friday. It was moved from the offices of McCullough Robertson on Eagle St in Brisbane to HSBC Bank on Queen St.

Sheraton Mirage Resort Gold Coast hotel Queensland

The beachfront Sheraton Mirage resort on the Gold Coast. Picture: Sheraton.

When they got to the bank, the doors were closed. By the time they got inside the branch, representatives for the sellers were ­leaving. They were allegedly asked to leave the bank. Australia Wattle Development’s court action was lodged the following Monday, on December 19. On December 21, judge Debra Mullins ordered an injunction continuing to restrain the sellers from disposing of the property until further order. The matter is listed for a hearing next month.

The Sheraton Mirage is a landmark resort in Queensland and in Australia’s business history. It is currently owned by MiiResorts — previously known as Pearls Australasia, the local arm of Indian conglomerate Pearls — since it paid $62.5 million for the asset in 2008.

MiiResorts is involved in a Federal Court case that alleges funding for the 2008 purchase of the resort, and the $20 million in upgrades made to it, were undertaken with money raised in India as a result of a $9 billion illegal fraud of 58.5 million local investors.

The action seeks to recoup money from the resort’s sale and repatriate it to India.

Sheraton Mirage Hotel Gold Coast resort

The Sheraton Mirage resort on the Gold Coast. Picture: Sheraton.

Meanwhile, on January 24, Federal Court judge Andrew Greenwood held an administrative pre-hearing. In an order, he says the proceeds of sale should be deposited in an Australian high-­interest account and copies given to the contracted purchaser.

A spokesman for The Star declined to comment on the status of the sale or the link with Australia Wattle Development. Representatives for MiiResorts did not comment by deadline.

In October last year The Australian revealed The Star and its Hong Kong-based joint venture partners for Brisbane’s $3 billion Queen’s Wharf development, Chow Tai Fook and the Far East Consortium, were finalising the deal to buy the Sheraton Mirage.

The Star chief executive officer Matt Bekier said the deal was due to settle in six weeks and he would like to see a European beach club-themed resort. “You should think of it (the Sheraton Mirage) as a Queen’s Wharf satellite,” he told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

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