Allpride Signs, established in 1989 in Newcastle, NSW was pressured into paying $44,000 upfront for a new 64" (1625mm) eco-solvent printer, just seven days before Starleaton Holdings went into voluntary administration. It was never delivered as promised. Additionally, an earlier but still working ColorPainter printer was traded and relieved of its printheads, rendering it inoperable.

 Allpride logo

Jamie Power, owner of Allpride Signs, estimates his total potential loss is around the $88,000 mark as he has paid for the undelivered printer and his existing 64" eco-solvent printer was rendered inoperable when a Starleaton tech removed parts. His company has a high reputation delivering both printed and LED signage all over Australia.

"We had an older, but still working, Seiko ColorPainter, a workhorse of the industry, which the new printer was replacing. Starleaton took the printheads and all ink for it away, when we allowed access, expecting the new printer shortly. We returned after the Christmas break around 8th January and resumed production. I received a phone call on 11th January insisting for full payment as someone else was 'interested' in the printer. We paid by EFT right away on 11th January. Our new printer was supposed to be delivered immediately and we kept calling about it but received empty excuses why it was late, despite our having paid for it in full."

Paid just days before Admin. declared

Power was shocked to be told that Starleaton had gone into administration only seven days after he had transferred the funds to the industry supplier. "They must have known they were heading for trouble," he told Wide Format Online. "Now, we have no new printer and one that was working with its printheads removed."

Even more shockingly, the printer manufacturer in question has no record of an order being placed by its dealer, Starleaton.

"We were told it was ready and waiting in their warehouse, this turned out to be a lie," says Power.

Wide Format Online spoke to the Administrator, Andrew Blundell of Cathro Partners who encouraged Mr Power to write to him via email urgently, before the Friday 23rd February second creditors meeting, assuring that the matter would be investigated. Wide Format Online has sighted previous correspondence between Allpride Signs and the Administrators, confirming the pre-payment and contract of sale.

A repeated pattern

Unfortunately, Allpride Sign's experience is not isolated, although it is remarkable for the closeness to administration that the $44,000 was demanded for the printer and paid upfront, on trust, a week before the announcement of voluntary administration. Wide Format Online knows of at least two other cases where either large deposits or upfront payments were made for graphic arts equipment totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars - and never delivered. Both involved equipment that was to be imported via Starleaton. One is subject to litigation while the other desires privacy in attempting to either get what they paid for or money back.

There is no suggestion that manufacturers supplying Starleaton are in any way liable for the missing funds and equipment. In fact, they are mostly as much victims in the voluntary administration situation, as are other creditors and employees.

In the background, sincere efforts are being made by the Administrator and other parties, to try and achieve a better outcome for creditors and businesses that have paid large deposits or total upfront monies for equipment. An offer of a totally free loan printer to Allpride Signs was received, via Wide Format Online, by a concerned supplier keen to help out.

Friday's second meeting of creditors will be critical in determining the way forward and any hopes of financial recovery for customers, creditors and employees alike.

One source, endorsed by another supplier, described the developing situation as: "a shameful stain on the supplier side of the industry - it ultimately affects us all."

We'll keep you informed.

Andy McCourt

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