Change sought at vineyard project

INVESTORS in the ailing Preston Vale vineyard are being asked to replace the $27 million project’s original management company Southern Wine Corporation in a bid to keep the managed investment scheme alive.

Fremantle-based Frankland River Olive Company is seeking investor support to take over as Preston Vale’s responsible entity following the collapse of Southern Wine, which is now in liquidation.

FROC’s associate Southern Olive Management has been managing the vineyard since October in an arrangement that has allowed it to take the fruit from the 2003 harvest as payment for maintaining and supervising the Donnybrook vine-yard’s operations, thought to be the biggest single vineyard in WA.

A meeting has been called for July 21 in Sydney where many of the MIS’s 715 investors live.

FROC itself has been active in the MIS arena through its olive enterprise. The company also has wine industry knowledge through Alkoomi founder Merv Lange and Lionel Samson and Son Pty Ltd managing director Geoff Cook, who are both directors of FROC and SOM. Other directors are Pullinger Readhead Stewart partner Craig Readhead and David Carr, a corporate financier and company founder.

According to the notice of meeting if FROC is appointed as responsible entity it will engage SOM as the manager and be remunerated by taking the fruit for the 2004 harvest.

It is proposed that after the 2004 harvest the scheme will revert to the traditional model where investors receive the revenue from grape sales but are also responsible for expenses.

Mr Carr told WA Business News that the vineyard was a good asset and had a future under the right management.

“We will be glad to get through the final part of the formal process and continue producing premium fruit,” he said.

The process is complicated by the large number of widely dispersed growers, however, at least 41 have signed a letter to other growers urging them to vote.

Mark Pownall

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