Grocon building empire collapses

Liz Hobday
·2-min read

The massive Grocon building empire has collapsed.

The company, which is one of the biggest property developers in Australia, went into administration on Friday, saying the construction side of the business was insolvent.

Its chief executive, Daniel Grollo, says he's furious and blamed government agency Infrastructure NSW for its handling of the Central Barangaroo project.

"It is unfortunate that INSW is forcing our hand to place the construction business into administration," he said.

Grocon was founded in 1954 and has been run by three generations of the Grollo family.

Daniel Grollo says he wants to pay the company's creditors in full.

"I believe we will ultimately win the case against INSW and when we do so, the creditors will be the first in line to be compensated," he said.

But the national construction secretary of the CFMEU, Dave Noonan, says the industry is sick of big companies going under and leaving smaller contractors unpaid.

"People can draw their own conclusions about Daniel Grollo's leadership," he said.

"Obviously he takes the view that it's everyone else's fault."

Mr Noonan said Grocon's subcontractors are likely owed millions and the company's collapse means it's unlikely they will ever get paid.

Les Williams, from the advocacy group Subcontractors Alliance, agreed thousands of subcontractors may never see the money they're owed.

"These are small businesses that are just hung out to dry. It's a disgrace," he said.

He called for the federal government to implement the recommendations of the 2018 Murray review, which he says would ensure subcontractors are paid.

Grocon has built some of the country's most iconic buildings, including the Rialto, Crown Casino, Eureka Tower and AAMI Park stadium in Melbourne, as well as 1 Martin Place in Sydney and Common Ground in Brisbane.

But it's been embroiled in legal disputes across three states.

Grocon is battling Infrastructure NSW over permitted building heights at Barangaroo and was recently ordered to pay one million dollars to secure INSW's legal costs.

And there have been multimillion dollar legal fights with commercial property heavyweight Dexus in the Queensland courts and APN Property in Victoria.

Grocon has a long history of disputes with the construction union CFMEU, with blockades shutting down parts of Melbourne's CBD for months in 2012.

There have been workplace safety problems too.

In 2013, a wall at Grocon's CUB building site in Melbourne collapsed, killing three pedestrians.

Grocon was found to be responsible and fined $250,000.

As for its current projects, Grocon said the Ribbon development in Sydney and the Northumberland development in inner city Melbourne would not be part of the administration process.

Grocon says administrators will be appointed by noon Sunday.