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Darrell Lea melts into administration
Darrell Lea melts into administration

UPDATE 1.55pm: Darrell Lea's administrators are hopeful they can save hundreds of jobs and find a buyer for the famous chocolate maker.

Darrell Lea appointed PPB Advisory as voluntary administrators amid fears the company is in deep financial distress.

PPB's Mark Robinson said a major review of Darrell Lea's business was underway in the hope a buyer could be found to help save the company and its 700 workers.

Potential bidders from Australia and overseas had already expressed interest in the 85-year-old company, he said.

"At this time it is business as usual and our primary focus is for the employees and store owners that are impacted by this unfortunate event,” Mr Robinson told reporters.

"This is an iconic brand which means a lot to Australians and I'm sure it will live on in some form into the future."

Mr Robinson said Darrell Lea had been experiencing trading problems for some time, with soft retail conditions playing a part.

Decisions on whether jobs would need to be axed will be made once the review, which is being funded by Darrell Lea's owners, wraps up.

"Our focus is to save as many as possible by conveying this business as a going concern,” Mr Robinson said.

Darrell Lea employs about 700 people at its Sydney manufacturing base and at its 1800 shops across Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

The company is 100 per cent owned by the Lea family.

Mr Robinson said the company's directors were saddened by the problems they faced.

"Obviously, given it's a family-owned business that commenced in 1927... disappointment and sadness would have described their mood,” he said.

Darrell Lea employees have been left dumbstruck and in tears by news of the company's financial meltdown.

Staff say they were given no warning that the company was in such financial peril before being informed at a meeting this morning that the firm was up for sale.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said Darrell Lea should have been more transparent about its financial woes.

Jennifer Dowell, national secretary of AMWU Food and Confectionary Division, said the union would meet with factory employees this afternoon, and seek further talks with the administrators.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard hopes a buyer for Darrell Lea can be found quickly.

"We all know Darrell Lea and its products, we have all been into its shops,” she said.

"Everybody has probably eaten a lot of their Rocky Road over the course of their lives, I know I have."