Who gets to keep Heston’s $400k wine collection?
A $400,000 collection of fine wine amassed by Dinner by Heston has emerged as point of tension between Crown Resorts and the liquidator winding up the failed high-end restaurant.
Crown has claimed ownership of the carefully curated wine collection as it manoeuvres to limit its losses from the high-profile venture backed by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.
It has done so by arguing it owns the wine - which includes selections of Grand Cru Burgundy, Barolo and Grange - under a so-called bailment agreement.
Such agreements involve one party taking possession of another party's property on the understanding it will be returned at a later date.
The latest report to creditors from BRI Ferrier, released this week, said it has received legal advice that Crown's ownership claim to the wine "may be valid".
But that is not the end of the matter as Crown is understood to have failed to register its ownership of the "wide variety of wine bottles" within the legally required time frame.
BRI Ferrier is now weighing up a legal challenge.
If it can establish Crown regularly uses bailment agreements, BRI believes it has a good chance of being awarded ownership of the wine as Crown would have been aware of the legal timeline associated with claiming ownership of the disputed stock.
If, however, Crown rarely used such agreements, BRI believes a court is unlikely to rule in its favour.
The stoush is part of a wider dispute between Crown and BRI relating to the carve-up of Dinner by Heston's assets and the latest creditors' report make it clear that expensive legal action may not be worth it.
"Should the assertion by Crown regarding the bailment agreement be found to be incorrect then further actions may be available to me to pursue for the benefit of creditors," the report prepared by BRI liquidator Brian Silvia said.
But he went on to caution: "I do not currently anticipate any further realisations in regard to the company's stock of the company."
Melbourne-based Crown is the largest creditor, owed $4.4 million.
But revenue from the restaurant was paid into a Crown bank account and the casino giant withheld $3.03 million of that, meaning it is facing a $1.4 million loss.
BRI is probing whether Crown was able to withhold the restaurant's revenue, particularly during the period when it was being run profitably by administrators.
Crown, which provided Dinner by Heston with a peppercorn annual rent of $1, terminated the restaurant's lease in late January and it ceased trading in mid-February.
The restaurant, which was run profitably under administration by BRI, collapsed owing employees more than $4 million in underpayments.
Crown has declined to comment.
Originally published as Who gets to keep Heston's $400k wine collection?