So how’s the Nathan Bock investigation going?
Never going, gone, gone, gone.
Herald sun article paywall in place .
Demetriou query how he was so good at AWFul but not out in the real world.
Accountable to no one in the AFL
How Demetriou became embroiled in company collapse
Jeff Whalley, Herald Sun
To most people, Andrew Demetriou is known as the child of Greek Cypriot parents who became a self-made man, played for North Melbourne and turned the AFL into big business.
But to Tim Demetriou — founder of Acquire Learning — he was “Uncle Andy”, to whom he went for business advice. It is the former AFL boss’s role in this now-collapsed business that is currently gaining attention.
Andrew Demetriou knows about people yelling abuse at the footy.
Fans levelled a lot at Demetriou during his time as chief of the nation’s dominant sporting code.
He was betraying the sports local roots with his hellbent focus on expansion.
He was pricing-out average fans for things like even the humble meat pie. (Making things “pre-Demetriou prices” became a running gag on ABC radio’s Coodabeen Champions show.)
But no one doubted his acumen as he turned the game into an efficient money-making machine.
In 2005, a year after he took over, the league raked in $203.7 million in revenue.
In March 2014, he revealed he would be leaving the top job. The league that year hit revenue of $458 million.
It was in July of the same year that Demetriou is said to have started advising another organisation, Acquire Learning Pty Ltd, an education “broker” that sold courses from a range of vocational training providers and was founded by his nephew, Tim Demetriou.
In 2016, Acquire notched up revenue of $136 million and was reportedly heading for a stockmarket float worth up to $700 million. But, in May 2017, Acquire collapsed with debts of $145 million with creditors including the Australian Taxation Office.
While everyone knew that Demetriou was the boss of the AFL, questions have been asked about his exact role at Acquire.
How the company crashed and burned is among the questions being examined by liquidator Barry Wight, of Cor Cordis, at hearings at Melbourne’s Supreme Court.
BOOM, THEN TROUBLE
It was efforts seven years ago by Julia Gillard’s government to boost vocational learning that seeded the spectacular growth of Acquire.
Changes meant those taking diploma courses could suddenly get government loans, similar to the Higher Education Contribution Scheme used for university degrees.
These were called VET FEE-HELP and could be used for students of private colleges. The federal scheme that spent $325 million in 2012 was splashing out $2.9 billion by 2015.
The vocational learning sector boomed, and Acquire, under directors Tim Demetriou, John Wall and Jesse Sahely, positioned itself as a “broker” that sold courses from a range of vocational training providers.
Acquire MD John Wall with Andrew Demetriou at the company’s Armadale office.
However, alarm bells rang in late 2015 when the competition cop — the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission, headed by the dogged Rod Sims — took Acquire to court over the use of its Hawthorn call centre and the way it targeted students. In 2017, the ACCC won the case and Acquire was fined $4.5 million.
Justice Bernard Murphy was harsh, saying Acquire in its use of telemarketers “rorted” the scheme, and that its “activities resembled those of an unscrupulous fly-by-night operation rather than those of a prominent and market-leading provider of student recruitment services, as it describes itself”.
By the time that decision was delivered, Acquire was already struggling as the government reformed the FEE-HELP program.
Acquire found its funding lifeline cut off, and it was placed in voluntary administration in May 2017. Liquidators have identified substantial issues at the company, including possible insolvent trading and breaches of directors’ duties.
So what was Andrew Demetriou’s role at the failed education provider?
The former AFL chief was never registered with the corporate regulator as a director of Acquire.
But Demetriou was chairman of the company’s advisory board between February 2014 and June 2016.
He was paid $900,000 a year for the three-day-a-week advisory role.
(For his part, Tim Demetriou referred to the former AFL boss as “Uncle Andy” in correspondence.)
Andrew Demetriou says that is the extent of it.
But in its glory days, as it sought legitimacy amid its rapid climb, Acquire bandied Demetriou’s name about.
Acquire put out a release in July 2014, saying Demetriou was joining “as executive chairman”, with no mention of an advisory group. Demetriou has previously told media such Acquire releases were incorrect.
Acquire was an education “broker” that sold courses from a range of vocational training providers. Acquire’s Hub in Melbourne.
A release from Crown Resorts in 2015 — where he is also a director — said: “Mr Demetriou also holds the role of executive chairman of Acquire Learning, a Melbourne company that enrols students on behalf of training providers in courses.” The Crown annual report for that year said the same thing.
Questions have been posed about the former AFL supremo’s role at the liquidator’s hearings.
The court heard Demetriou signed off on at least one company director bonus.
In one August 2014 email shown to the court, Demetriou told his nephew Acquire was worth between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion. In May 2017, the former AFL chief billed Acquire for a fee the night before Acquire appointed administrators, the court heard.
The loans to people at the company have been a focus of liquidators.
It is likely liquidators will attempt to claw back $15 million in loans Acquire made to shareholders, including Andrew Demetriou, Tim Demetriou, directors Mr Wall and Mr Sahely, as well as businessmen Damien Dau and Peter Lewis.
According to liquidators’ documents, Andrew Demetriou is listed as having a loan of $311,000.
The Herald Sun is not suggesting Andrew Demetriou, Tim Demetriou, Mr Wall, Mr Dau, Mr Lewis or Mr Sahely engaged in any wrongdoing, just that the liquidators are examining the loans.
In a Supreme Court hearing held by liquidators in February, Andrew Demetriou distanced himself from the dramatic fall of Acquire.
He told the court he had little knowledge of its financials.
Demetriou described his role as “primarily to open doors”, “use my network of contacts” and be a “sounding board for a young group of people wanting to start a business”.
The former AFL boss was contacted for this article but said: “Respectfully, I have nothing to add.”
A fortnight ago, it was Tim Demetriou’s turn to appear before the liquidators’ hearings in Victoria’s Supreme Court.
It was grim stuff.
Tim Demetriou cast a lonely figure on the stand as barrister for the liquidators, Damien McAloon, trawled through what is left of the education empire.
The matter has not been set down for any further appearances and now awaits the next move by liquidators.
A.D. obviously not accountable at Acquire Learning? Can A.D. say he honestly didn’t know what was going on at Acquire? Students with disabilities were conned into doing courses they were completely incapable of doing the work required or in many cases passing. If A.D. wasn’t aware, he certainly should have made it his business to find out. What was the Company motto - See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.
Come on A.D; Acquire was a rip off from start to end, not only to the students who were totally let down but also a waste of Government funding. Acquire prevented others who hoped to get funding to study and couldn’t and in the end helped no one but the greedy people who came up with this absolute rip off in the first place. I hope they throw the bible at those the court finds are responsible.
Has the Company got any ties with Bastion?
Of course they wouldn’t do anything untoward like that, would they?
I can still see his big wet slimy lips, smirking when explaining how James Hird was to blame for everything thing.
didn’t stop them saying Hird was guilty of wrong doing even when he wasn’t !!
Theres a Jackson Taylor MP mentioned on one of Juliana Addisons facebook posts.
Would this be the same Jackson Taylor that took on the AFL and mysteriously withdrew his case?
That fat farcking controller, didn’t get his whack for all the schit he dished up against James and the players. But I would sleep very easily if he went to jail for this.
And it wasn’t mysterious that he had to withdraw the case. His financial backers withdrew their support so he could not afford to continue.
Why they withdrew their support may be mysterious, though they were probably got at by the AFL’s old boys network.
I would sleep very easily if he got more extreme punishment than that.
When Acquire became Carlton’s Official Learning Partner,the then Carlton CEO said they had shared values.
Acquire later defaulted on its sponsorship but how many did it sign up through the Carlton connections in the interim?
Mike Fitzfatprick wouldn’t have been too chuffed about that.
Not saga related but it’s amusing to note that Carlton had an Official Learning Partner and still “never learnt nuffink”.
All in the AFL family - they were in business together at Creswick Quartz.
Didn’t even learn how to spell either.