Tribe Brewing have avoided going into liquidation after a majority of creditors voted for a buyout proposal by a group led by Kathmandu co-founder Jan Cameron's charity, the Elsie Cameron Foundation. The deal sees unsecured creditors paid just five cents to the dollar, with the amount owed by Tribe to those creditors totalling around $72.2 million, according to an administrators' report released on March 27.
Tribe and their associated brands, which includes the likes of Stockade, Wilde gluten-free and Mornington Peninsula Brewery, went into voluntary administration on February 28. A meeting was held today at which creditors voted on a deal designed to avoid the company going into liquidation; the administrators' report valued the deal at between $5.5m and $6.7m.
In a media release, Christopher Hill from FTI Consulting, which has been handling the voluntary administration, said the deal means Tribe's employee entitlements are preserved in full.
“This outcome means that Tribe will continue as a going concern, which is a great outcome for Tribe’s employees and customers," he said in the statement.
Following the appointment of Sydney-based FTI Consulting as administrators, expressions of interest for a sale were opened with 19 different parties signing confidentiality agreements and three putting forward non-binding offers to buy Tribe. One of those was acceptable to the administrators with that deed of company arrangement, or DOCA, the subject of today's vote. A DOCA is a formal agreement between a company, its creditors and those putting the deal forward, with the administrators stating the only other realistic option was to wind down the operation.
That DOCA was put forward by the Tribe Noteholders Group, of which the majority shareholders are the Elsie Cameron Foundation, a charity run by Jan Cameron, and VBS Investments. According to the administrators’ report to creditors, all shares in Tribe Brewing were sold to Tribe Noteholders Group on February 27, the day before the business went into liquidation. Tribe Noteholders Group had previously been registered as a company in November 2022 with the Elsie Cameron Foundation and VBS each holding 50 shares out of a total of 150.
Tribe's Goulburn facility opened in 2019; it is capable of producing around 35 million litres a year, with room to expand. Despite operating their own brands and a venue, the Stockade Barrel Room which closed on March 11, their focus has been on making drinks for other businesses, including supermarkets and independent brewing companies. The administrator's report noted that, since Goulburn opened, Tribe had been: “unable to generate sufficient production volumes on a consistent basis to reach cashflow break-even.”
The report noted that Tribe had been undergoing losses since 2020 and had been exploring a sale or a further capital injection since September 2020. It also stated that Tribe’s financial performance was largely the result of COVID, which brought challenges that included staff shortages, fluctuations in the alcohol market, and supply issues. This was coupled with a “prohibitive capital structure considering the underlying earnings of the business.”
The Goulburn brewery also had a wastewater breakdown late last year which resulted in a significant shutdown and financial hit.
For much of the last decade, Tribe has been closely associated with siblings Anton and Stefan Szpitalak. They bought the contract brewing and packaging facility AIB (Australian Independent Breweries) in 2012, rebranding it as BrewPack and then later Tribe. Their original production brewery was located in Smeaton Grange before the Goulburn site was established. They opened the Stockade Barrel Room in Marrickville in 2018 and acquired Mornington Peninsula Brewery later that year.