Chocolate chain Max Brenner in voluntary administration
LUXURY chocolate chain Max Brenner is facing an uncertain future as it is plunged into voluntary administration.
A tough retail climate resulting in sluggish sales and rising costs are understood to be behind the dramatic decision - which was taken on Sunday afternoon.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the company's directors appointed administrators McGrathNicol to undertake the urgent review and it is unclear how this will affect the chain's 37 Aussie stores. However, the chain said it will be business as usual until further notice.
McGrathNicol is understood to be considering selling Max Brenner or recapitalising the business, which has about 600 staff.
In Australia, the chain - which is known for its fondue, crepes, milkshakes, waffles, and hot chocolate - is owned and run by husband and wife team Tom and Lilly Haikin.
They opened their first cafe in Sydney's Paddington in 1999 and the chain is now headquartered in Alexandria, in the city's inner-west.
The pair, who made BRW's Young Rich list in 2013 with a fortune of $40 million, branched out across the country soon after.
Now, there are 15 stores in NSW, 12 in Queensland, five in Melbourne, two in the ACT and Western Australia, and one each in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
The firm was founded in 1996 in Ra'anana, Israel, by Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner who combined their names. The business began as a small shop selling handmade chocolates.
According to the founders of Max Brenner, "chocolate is not just about taste. It's a symbol of different aspects in our lives - of romance, of sensuality, of decadence. These aspects actually create the new chocolate culture of Max Brenner."
The chain's success has seen it spread as far as the US, Japan, Singapore, Russia and China.
It appeared the spread was showing no signs of slowing down in January, when the company told Inside Retail Australia it aimed to open as many as seven new local stores this year.
However, it was clear all was not well with the Australian side of the business when Sunstate Ceilings - a Queensland business - filed a wind-up notice against Max Brenner on June 29.
The Australian Financial Review reported that Glenn Wein, the former head of the Packer family's Consolidated Press Holdings, was looking to put together a "rescue" package to save the business, which owed about $50 million at the time.