Retail entrepreneur Gerry Harvey has revealed he is owed millions of dollars by former billionaire Nathan Tinkler over racing interests.
Mr Harvey told Fairfax Media he had a caveat over Tinkler’s racing and breeding assets and was considering selling horses that race in the name of Tinkler’s company Patinack Farm.
Harvey’s revelations cast suspicion over Tinkler’s recent claims he struck a deal with United Arab Emirates-based investment company Cibola Capital to sell the thoroughbred racing and breeding business.
Tinkler, whose coal mining empire was once estimated to be worth more than $1 billion, put Patinack on the market over a year ago and was thought to have received more than $130 million for the business.
Tinkler had confirmed the sale in a prepared statement last month.
"I am extremely pleased to agree the sale of Patinack Farm to an ambitious group who will continue to build on the foundations we have laid over the last six years,'' Tinkler said.
But the transaction is shrouded in mystery. According to Fairfax, when asked if the deal to sell Patinack Farm to Cibola had been genuine, Harvey declined to comment.
Information about the very existence of Cibola is also scarce, with the company’s website ‘currently under construction’ and not to relaunch before July 1, 2014.
Although Harvey would not verify the amount of money owed to him, according to racing industry sources, it could be as much as $40 million.
"It has been like this for months and I have been involved with Patinack for years. I'm a big boy and I knew what I was doing when I got involved and I'm just in the middle of it now,'' Mr Harvey told Fairfax.
"We just have to hope [Tinkler] can get one of these deals over the line and get himself out of it."
Harvey’s claims also now cast doubt on Tinkler’s other business dealings.
Earlier this month, Tinkler indicated the sale of his thoroughbred assets had allowed him to finance the purchase of a coalmine in Queensland.
The coal industry was caught by surprise when Tinkler announced he was buying the closed-down Wilkie Creek mine from Peabody Energy for $150 million.
Mr Tinkler had said he would pay for the mine with his own money as well as financing from New York investment bank Jefferies.
But cracks in the plan are beginning to show, with reports by Fairfax Media that Tinkler has not satisfied contractual conditions imposed by the key backers.
Tinkler has denied any serious problems, telling The Australian the slow pace of the Patinack sale was the only major setback to finalising the coal mine purchase.
“It has caused me a little bit of grief but we have put something else in place,” Tinkler said.
“My motto is there is no more horses or football teams in my future, mining is where my focus is.”