20 February 2024

Debts of $2m alleged as Griffith winery fights two Supreme Court battles against packaging giant

| Oliver Jacques
Warburn Estate winery

Warburn Estate winery is fighting battles in the NSW and Victorian supreme courts. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Longstanding Griffith winery Warburn Estate is engaged in Supreme Court battles in two states with Visy – a global packaging company owned by billionaire Anthony Pratt, a Region investigation has found.

One arm of Mr Pratt’s company, Visy Glama, sought to wind up Warburn Estate in insolvency at a Victorian Supreme Court hearing last Wednesday (14 February), alleging the winery owed it $236,639.

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However, Warburn Estate has also initiated its own separate proceedings against the related company Visy Glass Operations in the NSW Supreme Court, alleging it was supplied with defective bottles.

Visy Glama’s Victorian Supreme Court application was supported by other high-profile businesses who claim they are also owed money by Warburn, including global bottle maker Orora Limited ($1,142,755), Hanwood-based wine and cocktail exporter Divas Beverages ($346,277), gas company Shell Energy Retail Pty Ltd ($95,865), the nation’s leading sugar producer Sugar Australia Pty Ltd ($20,255) and the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer ($187,478).

In total, creditors have alleged they are owed just over $2 million from Warburn Estate.

Visa Glama reportedly resolved its dispute with Warburn Estate and withdrew its wind up application last Wednesday, but a further hearing on the matter in the Victorian Supreme Court led by other creditors will be held next Wednesday (28 February).

If Warburn is forced by the Victorian Supreme Court to wind up in insolvency, it will be required to close its business operations and sell off assets to pay creditors.

A previous attempt to wind up the winery, led by Divas Beverages, was dismissed by the Victorian Supreme Court in May 2023.

The NSW Supreme Court hearing initiated by Warburn Estate (as the plaintiff) against Visy Glass Operation on the alleged supply of defective products has a hearing scheduled on 8 March 2024.

Warburn Estate was established by Griffith’s Sergi family in 1968.

After a tough few years for the industry, it was announced in January 2024 that Meditrina Beverages Pty Ltd, owned by Griffith’s Taliano family, were in the process of purchasing Warburn Estate’s land, plant, equipment, trademarks and cellar door. This sale is expected to be finalised in March 2024.

Region understands that because Meditrina Beverages Pty Ltd are purchasing the winery assets, not the business, it does not inherit the alleged Warburn Estate debts.

According to documents published by the Federal Government’s business regulator, Warburn Estate Pty Ltd remains a registered business that lists Guiseppe Pasquale Sergi as its director.

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Visy is a $5 billion global empire that uses recycled material to manufacture bottles, cans and cardboard boxes for the food and beverage industry. Visy Glama and Visy Glass Operations both operate under the Visy umbrella.

Visy’s owner, Melbourne-born billionaire Anthony Pratt and his family, reportedly have a net worth of more than $24 billion.

Mr Pratt made international headlines late last year when former American president Donald Trump called him a “red headed weirdo” after it was alleged the pair spoke about the US nuclear submarine fleet and its capabilities.

Warburn Estate and its legal representative Ben Horne were contacted for comment.

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