Big Pineapple has court win over disputed $5.5m debt
The Big Pineapple has won the latest round in a $5.5 million legal battle that could liquidate the business behind the 16-metre-high Queensland tourist attraction.
The Brisbane Supreme Court on Monday granted an application by Big Pineapple Corp to set aside a statutory demand that the company repay a disputed debt of $5,533,000 including interest.
A statutory demand is a creditor's formal, written request requiring a company to pay a debt of at least $4000 within 21 days or face a potential court order to declare the company insolvent and wind it up.
The demand was filed by Brad Rankin and his Brisbane companies Rankin Investments and Rankin Super, which entered into a joint venture with Big Pineapple Corp in 2011 for the development of land around the attraction at Woombye, about 10 kilometres west of the Sunshine Coast.
The Big Pineapple was built in 1971 to showcase Queensland's agriculture to tourists and the site now includes a zoo and rainforest high ropes course.
Mr Rankin demanded in April last year that his investment be repaid after his partners in the joint venture, Peter Kendall and CMC Property, refused to support his plan to sell the tourist attraction to national property developer Scott PDI for $35 million.
Mr Kendall, of Brisbane, said his position was "the Pineapple is not for sale".
Justice Soraya Ryan ruled that there was a "genuine dispute" over the $5.5 million.
"I find that there exists a plausible contention, which requires investigation, that the debt was not due and payable on 30 June 2022," Justice Ryan said.
Mr Rankin himself agreed in cross-examination that, from November 29, 2012, he understood that the Rankin Super loan was not going to be repaid unless the joint venture ended, or he left the joint venture, the judge said.