Former Billabong chief executive Mathew Perrin has been sentenced to eight years jail for fraud and forgery over a $13 million loan he desperately needed to keep himself afloat during the global financial crisis. The now bankrupt Perrin who was once hailed as the golden boy of Queensland business circles and worth $150 million for his timely investment in the surfwear company before it floated in 2000.
Perrin pleaded not guilty to forging his wife’s signature to secure the loan from the Commonwealth Bank in 2008, but a jury found him guilty just before Christmas.
With the fraud and forgery charges running co – currently he was sentenced to a total of eight years jail. The judge said he could be eligible for parole in four years time. Taking into account his 39 days in custody. Perrin 43, could walk free from prison in late 2020.
The former Business Review Weekly Rich – Lister forged his wife and brothers signatures on bank documents to secure loans and credit extensions from the Commonwealth Bank Of Australia and to avoid having to have their family home repossessed, as he invested his fortune in Chinese shopping centres. The deals turned sour as the global downturn hit.
The now divorced Perrin made his fortune when as a 26 year old lawyer he convinced former Qantas Airways chairman Gary Pemberton to form a syndicate along with his family and friends to buy a 49 percent stake in Billabong Surfwear off company owner Gordon Merchant.
Perrin became chief executive and helped the business before it floated on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2000, hitting a market capitalisation of $1.7 billion. But Perrin departed Billabong as quickly as he arrived. He offloaded 49 percent stake in 2000, netting him and his wife $66 million. The only problem was he didn’t tell the board, and he was shown the exit.
Like many others at the time, he overplayed his hand when trying to enter the lucrative Chinese market. He ploughed his funds into a company called Global – Mart, which had 240 supermarkets in China.
He was overcapitalised and had rising debts. He remortgaged the family home on the Gold Coast to finish the deal, which his then wife claimed was without her knowledge. She later transferred $10 million out of their joint account, which signalled the death knell of his Chinese business aspirations and the collapse of his business career.
The crown prosecutor Glenn Cash acknowledged Perrin’s case was slightly less worse than other fraud cases because he genuinely believed he would be able to pay the banks back the money. But he still argued the Gold Coast businessman should be sentenced to nine years jail.
Perrin’s lawyer Andrew Hoare argued the Gold Coast businessman’s situation had been exacerbated by third parties, namely his wife moving $10 million out of their joint account after the Chinese business deals turned sour.
In this case there was a real prospect if the sale of the assets in China had been realised. But the action of third parties defeated that Mr Hoare declared.
The justice took into account the publicity over Mathew Perrin’s case over the past nine years when deciding his sentence.