A furious bidding war to buy out Mardi Gras marked another week of turmoil for the organisation since Friday’s move into voluntary administration.
It is understood administrators Sims Lockwood oversaw a hectic round of meetings with private companies seeking to purchase Mardi Gras for commercial interest, as well as community consortiums seeking to keep Mardi Gras in community hands.
The potential loss of the gay and lesbian community’s signature event to commercial interests has galvanised a number of community groups and individuals to call for unity.
Prominent community lawyer Peter Grogan told Sydney Star Observer yesterday that a meeting should be held as soon as possible to allow members of the gay and lesbian community input in to what happens to Mardi Gras.
There are a lot of offers floating around at the moment and everyone should probably take a cold shower. It’s the gay and lesbian community who have the sole right to determine the future of the Mardi Gras phenomenon -“ which is a different thing from the legal entity called Mardi Gras, Grogan said.
What flows from that is that no one else has a right to buy that, own it, hold it in trust, tell us what to do with it and we shouldn’t be asking anybody else for their money to support it.
Grogan said that if community interests could work in with the legal obligations of the administrators, then it would be a sensible approach to follow.
However, he stressed that if the community’s interests and those of the administrators diverged, then the community should move to build something new.
It’s about the event and that’s a lot bigger than Mardi Gras as a company, Grogan said.
Mardi Gras president Julie Regan echoed Grogan’s concerns.
We consider it important that the assets are, in the long run, secured for the community in some form of trust.
Regan told the Star yesterday that she had been working hard to broker a deal that could be placed before the administrator and creditors. She called for a united community approach in building an attractive deal that would outshine private bidders.
In the short term, the interest is not in securing positions for various people, but in securing Mardi Gras, Regan said.
In this we would welcome support, advice and assistance from others in the community similarly concerned about Mardi Gras and similarly interested in securing it for the community as opposed to private interests.
It is understood that a number of local and international commercial bodies had approached the administrators this week for information on a full or partial buy-out of Mardi Gras.
Although the administrators will not be making a final report until the end of this month, the names of some potential bidders may emerge tomorrow at the first planned creditors meeting for the organisation.
The fate of this year’s Sleaze Ball was also still on the table this week.
A spokesperson at Sims Lockwood told the Star yesterday it was looking likely that the party would go ahead, with Mardi Gras licensing Sleaze Ball to outside hands.
It is understood that negotiations with a private backer for the 5 October Sleaze Ball fell through two days ago, but negotiations with a consortium of community-based party promoters will still move ahead this week.
A backer for Sleaze Ball would allow Mardi Gras to rid itself of $80,000 in debt incurred by Sleaze ticket presales and act as a fundraiser to assist the organisation through the administration process.
With all Mardi Gras operations currently on ice, Mardi Gras staff received the bad news this week that their jobs had been terminated until future notice.
It has been extremely difficult for us to have to do that, Regan said. We hope that will not be permanent. We hope to take some of those people back on at a later time, depending on the outcome of the administration process.