Mercury IT boils over

Mercury IT, the one-time high-flyer in retail and integration channels, has flown too close to the sun and crashed and burned with more than $2 million in outstanding debts. The company is now in the hands of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Mercury IT consisted of three divisions: the Laptop Land chain of retail stores; a Mercury Services operation, which serviced notebooks; and Mercury IT, which was a systems integration and consulting business.

It had also launched the PC Auction Web site in conjunction with a couple of former Toshiba executives in November last year. The site has been offline for the last two weeks. It is understood that Mercury IT was a half shareholder, with the remaining shareholders holding the right to claim full ownership should Mercury IT cease financial support.

The search is now on for PC Auction to find another partner with plans to relaunch as soon as possible.

The company's Laptop Land retail outlets in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide remain open as receivers from PricewaterhouseCoopers sift through the books to collate the full damage to creditors.

Derek Merdith, Mercury IT's managing director, is not answering his phone at the moment but a spokesperson at Laptop Land's original North Sydney store confirmed the parent company was in receivership.

A source within Laptop Land speculated that the acquisition of Adelaide's Lodin Computers in December 1999 had hurt the business and the current market malaise had seen revenues plummet. New stores in Melbourne and Adelaide had also not been as successful as the North Sydney site, the source said.

Meanwhile, industry speculation has it that Merdith is spending less time in the business he built from scratch, because of studies he has been undertaking at Harvard University.