Sarah Budge owns the trendy Crane Bar at Darlinghurst.
Sarah Budge owns the trendy Crane Bar at Darlinghurst.

Bailing out Budge: Ibrahim lover’s $800k bar disaster

Being the girlfriend of nightclub baron John Ibrahim does not guarantee financial success in the Kings Cross bar and restaurant game.

Just ask Ibrahim's long time love interest, Sarah Budge.

While Ibrahim made his fortune and retired after decades in the nightclub game, the holding companies for the 29-year-old model's up-market cocktail and "Japanese fusion" venue, Crane Bar, have failed twice in the last five years.

The most recent failure was in 2018 while Budge was a director of a company known as, Crane Bar Sydney, which clocked up trading losses of more than $720,000 in less than three years, according to company records.

 

 

Sarah Budge pictured here with lover John Ibrahim runs the up-market Crane Bar.
Sarah Budge pictured here with lover John Ibrahim runs the up-market Crane Bar.

The first occurred in 2014, when the company Crane Bar Restaurant was put in the hands of liquidators 10 months after Budge had resigned as a director of the company.

Budge's Crane Bar woes can be revealed after she was acquitted of three guns charges this week over a Glock pistol that was found in her Double Bay apartment in a 2017 raid.

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The liquidator who investigated Crane Bar's latest failure wrote in his report that Budge allowed the business to trade while it was insolvent for more than two years and should have been held liable for the almost $250,000 in "damage caused to the company and its creditors."

However, she was not pursued because the liquidator concluded Budge and the company did not have enough assets or funds to cover the cost of pursuing the amount.

 

 

The Crane Bar in Bayswater Road, Potts Point.
The Crane Bar in Bayswater Road, Potts Point.

After opening the bar in her early 20s, Budge has spent years juggling it with a busy modelling schedule and is known for being an extremely hard worker.

But even that work ethic hasn't been enough to translate to success for Crane Bar with high overhead costs and then the Kings Cross lock out laws posing major challenges.

Between 2012 and 2018, the bar was owned by two companies, Crane Bar Restaurant followed by Crane Bar Sydney.

Both failed financially.

When Crane Bar opened in 2013 it replaced the legendary nightspot Bayswater Brasserie.

One media report covering the grand opening noted that the lavish fit out, which included a black granite sushi bar in the middle and a jungle-like "atrium", "must have cost a bomb".

The first company that ran the nightspot was known as Crane Bar Restaurant and Budge was a director and secretary until May 2013.

 

Budge opened the Japanese fusion bar with business partner Michael Raft.
Budge opened the Japanese fusion bar with business partner Michael Raft.

Budge was removed as a director and shareholder of Crane Bar Restaurant in May 2013 and it was put into the hands of liquidators in March 2014, and later wound up owing between $70,000 and $165,000 to a range of creditors, including suppliers, ASIC documents said.

In July 2014, the site - but not the business - was purchased by the John Ibrahim linked company, Wirlinga No 10, for $4.1 million. The director of the company is Ibrahim's financial controller, Margaret Staltaro.

Budge and Ibrahim are believed to have begun their relationship around that time.

The nightclub continued operating under another company, Crane Bar Sydney, which was registered in 2013.

Budge was the sole director of Crane Bar Sydney between October 2013 and May 2019.

But it too ran into severe financial problems and was placed in the hands of liquidators in May 2018. The company was deregistered and had its ABN cancelled in February.

According to the liquidator's report, the business was "not profitable" and "generated ongoing trading losses of $726,909" between July 2015 and May 2018.

 

 

Budge’s father Mark sunk more than $1m into his daughter’s business. Picture: Instagram
Budge’s father Mark sunk more than $1m into his daughter’s business. Picture: Instagram

The report said this was likely influenced by "the changes in Sydney's lock out laws in the Kings Cross and Potts Point area."

The company was put into liquidation owing about $180,000 to the Australian Taxation Office and almost $100,000 to other creditors, documents filed with ASIC said.

Liquidator Steven Kugel wrote in his report that there appeared to be "insufficient assets" to repay creditors.

This was because the liquidators who took control of the company found its bank accounts were almost empty.

The few assets that could be sold - like crockery and perishable food worth an estimated $1500 - were not enough to cover the debts and the company was wound up.

Yet the bar continues operating today.

This is because Australian laws do not prevent the bar from re-emerging and continuing to operate under a different company.

 

 

Budge and Ibrahim pictured with Budge’s family including her late mother Leone. Picture: Instagram
Budge and Ibrahim pictured with Budge’s family including her late mother Leone. Picture: Instagram

Budge is now the venue's licensee. And the bar is owned by a company known as Geisha Holdings No32, the sole director of which is 46-year-old Kylie Walch, who lives in a Leichhardt apartment owned by Budge's family, according to company records.

Crane Bar Sydney underpaid superannuation to staff worth $9178, the liquidators report said.

Budge's brother, Jack, and a company owned by her father, Mark, funded the company with loans of $340,000 and $579,964 respectively, the report said.

Another report said Budge's father had sunk more than $1 million into the operation, which included buying all the TVs, while the "landlord" owned all the furniture.

Despite the funding, Crane Bar still owed $254,519 to other creditors and had no way of paying.

 

Budge leaving Downing Centre Local Court this week after being cleared of three firearm possession charges. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Budge leaving Downing Centre Local Court this week after being cleared of three firearm possession charges. Picture: Jonathan Ng

The liquidator also noted that Budge had likely allowed the bar to trade after the business became insolvent in March 2016.

"As a consequence, I have calculated that the damage caused to the company and its creditors totalled $242,988," Mr Kugel wrote in his report.

However, the report said Budge was not pursued because the company did not have enough funds or assets to fund a public examination and land titles showed Budge did not own property that could be sold to raise the money.

Attempts to reach Budge for comment were unsuccessful.



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