12 September 2023

'Business as usual' at Courgette after restaurant returned to family ownership following voluntary administration

| Lizzie Waymouth
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Courgette Restaurant

Courgette opened in Canberra almost 20 years ago and has received numerous awards. Photo: Supplied.

Award-winning Canberra restaurant Courgette has returned to its directors following a period of voluntary administration, the administrators have confirmed.

Chartered accounting firm Slaven Torline was appointed as the administrator in April, but partner Aaron Torline said control of the business returned to its directors, family members of former owner and chef James Daniel Mussillon on 4 July.

“It has continued to trade on a business as usual basis,” Mr Torline said.

Courgette opened in Canberra almost 20 years ago and has won numerous awards, including six consecutive Chefs Hat awards from the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide.

The announcement of Courgette’s administration came only weeks after Mr Mussillon was jailed for money laundering and perjury. However, this was an entirely separate matter.

Mr Torline told Region there had been “some governance changes in the business”, which is now being run by Mr Mussillon’s father and brother. He said Mr Mussillon had also changed accountants.

Mr Mussillon was released from jail in August and, while no longer involved in the corporate governance of the business, is “involved in the menu and restaurant”, Mr Torline said.

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Mr Torline explained that the business entered voluntary administration as it faced debt recovery proceedings commenced in court by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

“The restaurant had a number of outstanding tax lodgements, and it couldn’t negotiate a payment plan with the ATO informally so the ATO wound them up.

“Prior to the ATO commencing recovery proceedings, the business had for a number of months been in discussions with the ATO in respect to meeting its outstanding tax obligations through a formal payment arrangement process, which is quite common for businesses to do.

“There was sufficient liquidity in the business for it to meet its tax obligations through a payment arrangement plan; however, the business was ineligible for a payment arrangement plan with the ATO because there were a number of outstanding tax lodgements that had not been attended to.

“As administrators, we brought the tax lodgements up to date and formalised a proposal through a deed of company arrangement which will pay the business’s outstanding tax debts in full over the next 12 to 14 months, which was accepted by the ATO.”

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Mr Torline said that due to the business’s liquidity, and the fact the only real creditor was the tax office, the process was fairly “straightforward”.

He said that, as far as he is aware, the business is meeting its obligations now it is no longer under administration and that he has “no reason to believe it isn’t profitable”.

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