Ric Stowe still seeking to retain Devereux Farm
The former coal baron Ric Stowe is still seeking to retain Devereux Farm, he told theWest.com.au in his first public utterance in more than two years.
The usually private Monaco-based businessman offered his view on how his Griffin Coal empire imploded in January 2010, leaving behind a trail of more than $2 billion in debt.
It forced him to give up the family's beloved unsold $70 million, 2700 hectare estate on the outskirts of Perth, Devereux Farm.
Stowe says it was a perfect storm of events in 2009, including production problems at his coal mine.
"It was a very wet year and we were running to the end of the Muja deposit and getting the Ewington deposit going," he says.
"Mining two locations stretched us a bit thin."
"We also had problems with Wesfarmers and mining the high wall between our mine and their Premier coal operations (now owned by Yancoal)."
When he needed to raise money to overcome the problems (and legacy expenses from building Bluewaters), the global financial crisis hit, and unlike the past decade he had trouble raising money via bond markets in the US.
"Some of our debt went to funds, including one called Clearwater," he told thewest.com.au.
"I think some of them saw us as a 'dripping roast'; a good buy."
"It was all quite a difficult time, but (in late 2009) we won up to $2 billion in refunding through one of the other bondholders. We had that in place but we needed bondholder approval and Clearwater had more than 50% of the bonds and wouldn't approve it."
"It was quite a surprising time for us. We had never experienced that type of institution. We were very much used to the old-school tie banking firm."
Stowe conceded his family had interests outside of Griffin, and that he is still surrounded by a group of advisers and well-paid lawyers.
Optimistically, he confirmed to theWest.com.au he has been in talks to buy back Devereux Farm, which is in the hands of receivers.
In May last year the receivers PPB Advisory advised the selling agents Garland International to withdrawn the property from auction.
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