It went broke, then was saved, then the buyer pulled out leaving its future uncertain. Now, melted-chocolate franchise Max Brenner has been bought by Roy Mustaca, an opera singer and chairman of the independent cinema chain United Cinemas.
BDO, the appointed liquidators of Max Brenner, confirmed the sale to Broadsheet, putting an end to a rollercoaster ride for the international chocolate brand, which went into voluntary administration in September. In mid-October, investment firm Tozer & Co struck a last-minute deal to purchase the Max Brenner licence, only for the offer to fall through a day later, leaving its 600 employees in limbo.
Liquidators had already closed 20 Max Brenner stores, with the remaining 17 outlets in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria up for sale.
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Mustaca says there’s an altruistic motive behind his purchase of the failed chocolate chain. “I’ve been in cinema for 30 years, not chocolate … I purchased it to help the 400 people employed,” he told Italian-Australian news website La Fiamma.
United Cinemas operates nine cinemas around the country: Indooroopilly (Queensland), Craigieburn (Victoria), Rockingham (Western Australia) and another five in Sydney. He acquired the first in the 1980s, in Sydney’s Collaroy.
Mustaca is a colourful character in Sydney’s northern beaches – he’s released four albums of opera music that include self-penned ballads, and is known for bursting into song before screenings at his cinemas. A Facebook group dedicated to memes of the Warriewood businessman describes him as “Mr Entertainment as far as Pittwater is concerned”. The group’s most recent post, made yesterday, reads, “[Anyone] fancy a hot chocolate?”
In October, BDO administrators found the Max Brenner chain owed more than $33 million to creditors, $5 million to its existing staff including those made redundant during administration, and more than $4 million in unpaid GST and superannuation.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that an expensive renovation of Max Brenner’s head office in Alexandria depleted the company’s cash flow, which contributed to its demise.