The Phoenix is a saviour, not unsavoury

Should a man who has watched his business go into liquidation be able to buy that business back and keep his job?
Written by Darren Greenwood on

When you save 50 jobs from going down the tubes, you might expect thanks, rather than abuse.

But not when your family business has failed, and you keep your own job despite leaving suppliers out of pocket.

Such is the dilemma facing Chris Maclean, formerly of Maclean Computing, and now boss of the rebranded company Maclean Technology.

A few weeks back, Maclean Computing went into liquidation, with the loss of more than NZ$3 million.

Several days later, a new company was born: Maclean Technology, which bought the assets (but not the liabilities) of Maclean Computing.

As you can imagine, not everyone was happy, especially those who lost out.

The whole affair has raised questions about company laws in New Zealand, especially with regards to a section that allows for the formation of Phoenix companies as long as certain criteria are met.

Chris Maclean and his liquidator have been forced to explain themselves. It's not just a matter of reputation, but also the law, and the viability of the new business.

The liquidator, an outspoken chap called Damien Grant, said that the deal had to go through quickly because the vultures were circling. Rival IT firms were approaching the customers of the old Maclean Computing, and bidders for the old company may not have been able to execute their deals in time.

Thus, the liquidator sold the old company to the new, even though both had the same boss, Chris Maclean. New investors were brought in, however.

Such a transfer also had the backing of the secured creditors, as well as the staff of the old company.

Even so, some complaints remain, because, yes, there is something of a smell hanging around that just doesn't seem quite right; that a man who presided over the failure of the old company gets to keep his job as he heads the new company.

I can see why people are upset and angry, but it does seem as though Chris Maclean and his liquidator made the best of a bad job.

Damien Grant told me this week that not enough companies use the Phoenix law to save businesses. They would much rather shut them down and avoid controversy, despite the loss of jobs that closure would bring.

Chris Maclean also told me that he is working with creditors to make more payments to them. He has already sold personal property to do so.

This is the least that he could do. New Zealand is a small country, and everybody knows everybody, especially within the ICT community. Chris Maclean will hardly be able to show his face in public if people believe he acted incompetently, dishonestly or unethically.

His father, who started the business 20 years ago and remains well respected, will also want to ensure the continuation of the family's "good name".

When the Maclean family's PR man contacted me this week, he said that he was "just helping out" to draft answers to the questions that I and a colleague had sent them. Since much work has to be done to restore the battered reputation of the Macleans, I guess he'll be helping out for quite some time.

But given the circumstances, and unless anything dubious comes to light, on balance it looks like Maclean is doing the best he can. By keeping a business operational and saving jobs, using the Phoenix legislation is the least worst option after all.


Apple politely explains why iPhone cases are a waste of money
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple politely explains why iPhone cases are a waste of money

The 8 best iPhone models of 2022

The 8 best iPhone models of 2022

Delta Air Lines just made a callous admission that customers may find galling

Delta Air Lines just made a callous admission that customers may find galling