Family business turns sour

PROMINENT Mackay businessman Greg Long and his wife Narelle raised Brett Thorne as if he was their son, and he repaid them by giving them unsound financial advice which cost them more than $2 million.

Narelle Long is Brett's aunt, and when his mother died in 1988, she raised him as if he was her own.

A Supreme Court judge in Rockhampton has ordered Brett Thorne to pay $2,549,233 in compensation after he recommended the couple invest in an entertainment business, whose major asset was the Mainstreet Nightclub, which he knew was operating at a loss.

In a cruel twist, Brett Thorne declared himself bankrupt just eight weeks before the court order was made.

And the Longs, through their very hard work and continued investments, have turned the bad investment into a current trading profit.

"The Longs say they have had a close relationship with Brett Thorne, effectively treating him as their own son since the death of his mother in 1988," Justice Duncan McMeekin said.

"In more recent times they respected him as a businessman. Outwardly he was a successful one."

Thorne had three real estate agencies, considerable experience as a valuer, and had been involved in other businesses with the Longs.

In late 2007, Thorne convinced the Longs to invest in Ozibar Pty Ltd whose major asset was the Mainstreet Nightclub.

He told them the business was sound, but in fact the company was losing money and was insolvent. No proper financial accounts were then available at that time. The Longs said the true financial position was concealed from them. The Longs soon realised that the Mainstreet Nightclub was struggling and they poured $1.5 million into it over four years. It now makes a profit.

Justice McMeekin said: "By reason of the injection of funds over the years and no doubt Mr and Mrs Long's expertise and management, the business is now returning a profit."

Justice McMeekin awarded $1,955,844 in compensation, plus $593,849 in interest.