Sargon collapse sends shudders through super admin

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by Greg Bright

Sargon Capital’s main corporate entity has been placed in administration, prompting a trading halt on OneVue, Australia’s major unit registry and investment admin business. Let’s take a look at Sargon’s principals, the husband and wife team of Phil Kingston and Fiona Borelli.

Neither Phil Kingston nor Fiona Borelli, Phil’s partner and head of legal affairs at Trimantium, Sargon’s holding company, returned phone calls last week. Connie Mckeage, the managing director of OneVue, said she was unable to speak publicly due to the trading halt in her company’s stock, due to be lifted today (February 3). Luckily, OneVue seems to be likely to come out of the mess OK.

The mess is all about Sargon’s aggressive expansion attempts in the trustee space in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. For the past several months Phil has been trying to raise the money to fulfil his company’s commitment to OneVue for the purchase of the old Diversa Ltd super admin business. For various reasons, he could not get the money.

Sargon has paid OneVue $8 million but has not come up with the additional $31 million required under the agreement between the two companies, due to be paid last year but with terms extended until May, with OneVue, as previously announced to the ASX, taking over the right to take back the Diversa business. The price was considered, in the small world of Australian fund admin, to have been very generous. Good on Connie.

Phil Kingston, a self-professed entrepreneur and philanthropist, however, is known to have had a falling out with his major financier, US-based Roderick Thomson who made a fortune out of tech stocks in the early part of the last decade. Roderick, who said previously that he was the CIO of Trimantium, is believed to have stopped directing any more funding Phil’s way. Another former backer, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, has also distanced himself from the Kingstons,

Phil, nonetheless, continued on his merry way, expanding into New Zealand through the purchase of NZ Trust Company in 2017 and then the larger NZ Heritage Trustees business the following year. He also paid $5 million for Decimal, an ASX-listed robo-advice company founded by Jan Kolbusz, a former head of technology at Asgard, the St George Bank platform subsidiary which is now a part of the Westpac group. Jan still resides in Perth and is now working in the medical industry.

Phil made a failed bid for Perpetual Guardian in NZ and then, last September, bought AET Corporate Trust (Australian Equity Trustee) – an old Australian trustee business – from IOOF for a reputed $51.6 million. That purchase is understood to still to be settled. There also a significant outstanding amount from the Sargon companies to be paid to Westpac. Good luck to the administrator, too.

– G.B.

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