By Andy Young

The on-going battle between Australian Whisky Holdings and the Nant Distillery has taken yet another twist with AWH appointing David Levi of Levi Consulting as receiver and manager of NAW Estate Pty Ltd (formerly Nant Estate Pty Ltd) and NAW Barrel Holdings Pty Ltd (formerly Nant Barrel Holdings Pty Ltd).

This latest move comes after FTI Consulting, which was appointed by Eclipx Commercial Pty Ltd as receivers and managers of Nant Distilling, lodged an application with the Federal Court seeking a number of orders from AWH.

The Federal Court heard the application last week and subsequent orders were made for evidence from both sides, which have to be filed this week and the matter is due back in Federal Court next week.

FTI Consulting told TheShout that the orders lodged with the Court sought to:

  • Require AWH to deliver assets, including books and records, within 48 hours of the orders being made
  • Restrain AWH from manufacturing, importing, promoting, selling, distributing or advertising whisky using the Nant trademarks
  • Require delivery of the Barrels, along with books and records in relation to the Barrels.
  • To the extent any of the Barrels contain whisky, the receivers:

    • be appointed pursuant to s 57 of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) as receivers and managers of the Barrels for limited purpose of storing in an appropriate facility and in identifying the relevant ownership interest or interests in the Barrels;
    • within 30 days approach the Court for directions having determined, to the extent possible, the relevant ownership interest or interests in the Barrels.  

However, AWH has now released a statement to the ASX which details its appointment of Levi Consulting, a move it says is designed to “protect Nant barrel investors”.

The statement said: “AWH has steadfastly maintained that whisky within Nant investor barrels is owned by the respective Nant investors. Under AWH’s management, the barrels are monitored, managed and tested regularly by expert distillers for maturation, quality and leakage. The barrels are also insured by AWH on behalf of investors.

“These steps ensure production of a whisky of the highest quality. AWH has already repurchased a number of mature barrels directly from Nant investors, and has stated its desire to continue doing so, provided appropriate quality control safeguards are observed.

“FTI Consulting are appointed to advance the business interests of Eclipx Commerical, a private commercial finance company. Neither FTI Consulting nor Eclipx have given any undertaking to AWH about what they propose to do with the barrels if they are handed over. Nor has any information been provided about what (if any) quality control measures are proposed to be put in place, or the qualifications or experience of the team (if any) who will manage and monitor the barrels.

“AWH have accordingly contested the proceedings so as to ensure that investors’ barrels remain where they are – at Nant Estate, securely stored under the supervision of expert distillers in the heritage bond stores on site, at the correct altitude and in generally the optimal conditions and environment for the whisky to continue maturing.”

The company added: “The dominant reason for AWH’s appointment of Mr Levi is to secure the barrels so as to provide peace of mind to investors and to shareholders of AWH pending resolution of the proceedings.

“AWH will continue to resist the removal of any investor barrels from Nant Estate and looks forward to working with investors and other stakeholders in coming days to address any concerns they may have.”

In response to AWH's statement, FTI Consulting's Quentin Olde told TheShout: "We’re surprised by this move. Commercial discussions with AWH were well progressed, so this appears to be another attempt to frustrate the process and pre-empt the legal process that is underway.
“A large number of barrel investors have raised concerns with us about the treatment of the barrels, and I can’t see  how an AWH-appointed receiver can independently investigate allegations about AWH’s handling of the barrels.
“If AWH truly want to provide peace of mind to investors, then the simplest solution is to stop resisting our appointment and work with us to determine the true status and ownership of all the assets, including the barrels and their contents.
“While we were appointed by Eclipx, as receivers we have an obligation to all creditors including the barrel investors, and Eclipx have never made a claim that they have an interest in the whisky.” 

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *