Laptop Land re-emerges

Laptop Land re-emerges

Laptop Land will once again grace the streets of North Sydney, but the tangled web of the Mercury Group collapse continues to plague administrators.

Compaq appointed a receiver to Laptop Land NSW in March this year, sparking a landslide of financial strife for the Mercury Group of companies. One by one, Laptop Land businesses around the country fell, as administrators were called in to cope with the mounting debt accrued by the various divisions of the company.

However, a former Mercury employee has managed to keep the Laptop Land brand alive. Guy Richards in January became the director of the Laptop Land store in the Homaker Supa Centre at Moore Park in Sydney. The store was previously owned by former Mercury Group managing director Derek Merdith. Richards' business is listed as Laptop Land (Australia) as opposed to the former name, Laptop Land (NSW).

According to Richards, the Moore Park store was a separate entity to the Laptop Land business owned by the group when it dissolved. The store has continued to operate, unaffected by the tumult that surrounds the once high-flying reseller.

The Mercury Group collapse is unfolding into a saga. The number of administrators and receivers for the various companies quickly ballooned into an unmanageable list that ended up in the Federal Court.

Greg Hall from PricewaterhouseCoopers is now receiver for the group and Stephen Parbery from Prentice Parbery Barilla has been appointed as liquidator.

The hunt is now on to recover assets that were transferred from the group before its collapse. Investigations have revealed transfers totalling more than $865,000, which are recorded on cheque butts and bank statements as payments into superannuation funds. However, the receiver has been unable to discover the beneficiaries of these funds.

Payments were also made on Derek Merdith's property in Lovett Bay. In total $347,692.10 went towards monthly mortgage repayments, renovations, paintings, maintenance and council rates.

A spokesperson for the liquidator said it was confident of recovering a number of assets believed to have left the group.

Although Richards is aware that customers may have reservations about Laptop Land considering its troubled past, he is hoping the strength of the brand name will win over any doubts. "I think customers will be cautious," he said. "There are positives and negatives in all business moves."

However, the ties with Merdith are also not completely severed. Georgia Lane, a former Toshiba employee and a close friend of Merdith, has been working with the new Laptop Land businesses. Richards told ARN that Lane is in no way affiliated with the new company, but admitted she did work with the store on marketing initiatives.

"She does stuff with us, but she has a separate marketing company outside of the IT industry," he said.

For the moment, Richards' North Sydney operations are based in a temporary location in the Northpoint building on Miller Street. But within three months he expects to move to a permanent location in busy Mount Street.

Meanwhile, the old Laptop Land premises have been given a brand new look under the rejuvenated E-Store brand. E-Store CEO Gerard Farley purchased the site from receivers earlier this year, and is not at all concerned about an offshoot of the old Laptop Land business coming back to operate near its old head office.

"If anything, I'm excited about it," he said. "If people hear that Laptop Land is back, they will more than likely go straight back to where they remember it being. They will come straight to our store."

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