Italian community centre Co.As.It has raised its bid for the purchase of the Italian Forum Cultural Centre.
In an attempt to end a year-long deadlock between Leichhardt Council and the centre’s administrators SV Partners, Co.As.It announced they would raise their bid to $2.8 million, making them the highest bidder.
Since the Cultural Centre went into receivership in late 2013, Leichhardt Council has been leading a push for the property to be sold to Co.As.It in order to ensure the centre services the Italian community in Leichhardt and remains in the hands of a not-for-profit organisation.
SV Partners has continually disputed this based on the fact that Co.As.It were the lowest bidder for the property. In an attempt to end the ongoing dispute, Co.As.It decided to become the highest bidder.
This development was announced at a community meeting organised by Co.As.It on Monday, September 22 at Leichhardt Town Hall, which quickly became a very heated and impassioned argument between the parties.
At the meeting, then Mayor Darcy Byrne gave a speech encouraging the immediate sale of the property to Co.As.It.
Co.As.It General Manager Thomas Camporeale also urged the community to support a sale to Co.As.It in light of the new bid.
“We call on the Administrator to listen to the community, do the right thing and put an end to this disgraceful waste of money, withdraw his injunction and sell to us immediately. This can be done and should be done,” said Mr Camporeale.
The attendees then passed a motion to urge Stephen Hathway, Executive Director of SV Partners to sell to Co.As.It.
Mr Hathway announced he was unable to do so pending court hearings on the matter. He was booed during his speech and walked out of the meeting.
“We have been trying to ensure all creditors get paid back and to achieve the best outcome for the community at the same time,” Mr Hathway told City Hub.
“My job is to get the maximum price. I need to extract the highest possible price so the creditors get their money back.”
Mr Hathway said he was not convinced the new bid from Co.As.It would impact the final outcome of the dispute.
“One party has increased its bid, but that is not to say other parties will not increase their bids,” he said.
Mr Hathway also said he understands the other parties are in fact planning on submitting higher bids to beat Co.As.It’s $2.8 million.
Mr Camporeale expressed his concern that Mr Hathway was not taking the community concern over the sale seriously.
“I was very disappointed that Mr Hathway didn’t truly understand the community’s genuine concerns and outrage about how the sale has been handled,” he said following Monday’s meeting.
Dean Carey, Creative Director of the Actors Centre Australia and current lessee of the Cultural Centre, also indicated he did not believe Co.As.It’s new bid would be particularly consequential.
Mr Carey said supports the alternative reported by City Hub on September 11: that SV Partners re-capitalise the Cultural Centre by bailing out its original owners.
The outcome of the dispute will not be known until Leichhardt Council and SV Partners settle a legal dispute expected to be heard in court in early November.