03/04/2020 - 15:33

Auto landlord backs rental move

03/04/2020 - 15:33

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Michelle Prater (nee Wheatley) brings a unique perspective to the natural tension between landlords and tenants in the current market - she is a director of the country's largest car dealer and one of their largest landlords.

Auto landlord backs rental move

Michelle Prater (nee Wheatley) brings a unique perspective to the natural tension between landlords and their tenants in the current market.

She is executive chairman of family-owned property development company APPL Group, which owns a number of significant properties in Perth where national automotive giant AP Eagers has car yards.

She is also a non-executive director of AP Eagers, having joined the board in February after last year’s takeover of Perth-based Automotive Holdings Group.

Her grandfather Syd Wheatley established AHG in 1952, her father Vern Wheatley was chairman until 2004, and she held executive and board roles with the company prior to its listing on the ASX in 2005.  

“In the current financial climate, where someone can make a concession they ought to,” Ms Prater told Business News.

“The percentage and the timing will depend on individual circumstances.”

She was commenting on news that ASX-listed AP Eagers has suspended rental payments to its landlords from the start of this month.

Ms Prater agreed she had a unique perspective but added the current climate was also unique.

“By virtue of the two roles, yes I can understand the position of both parties," she said.

“Ultimately though we need to work together to secure our long-term future so that means making compromises.”

Ms Prater indicated that companies should not be excluded from gaining concessions just because they are large.

“Every business owner from your local café or fitness centre as a sole trader right through to the large companies like AP Eagers are all trying to weather this financial storm,” she said.

She endorsed the actions taken by AP Eagers chief executive Martin Ward.

“Martin has acted in the best interests of the listed company,” Ms Prater said.

“The board supports his decision to seek rent relief.”

While Ms Prater endorsed the general principle of landlords’ offering rent relief, where they can afford to do so, she declined to comment specifically on how APPL Group had responded to AP Eagers’ action.

“We understand the request and we are working with AP Eagers to provide a satisfactory outcome," she said.

“The two companies have a long and mutually beneficial history and we want that to continue long after this current crisis is over.”

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