Inner West Independent

Builder makes bid for Italian Forum

All the drama of a symphony: the Italian Forum Cultural Centre

EXCLUSIVE

The beleaguered Italian Forum Limited has received a takeover offer from its largest creditor, Novati Constructions, which built the first phase of the cultural centre.

Novati has offered to pay all creditors, which amounts to $2.4 million, and would sign a 15-year lease for the Actors Centre Australia to occupy the space. The company is owed $617,000 by the IFL.

Executive director of administrator SV Partners, Stephen Hathway, said he had accepted the Novati proposal despite it coming after the closing date for expressions of interest. He told the Inner West Independent it was unusual for a creditor to make such a bid.

“The way [they] did it at a creditors’ meeting was a fairly unique approach,” he said.

As previously revealed, the other bidders include Italian language school Co.As.It. and a childcare provider, Tick Tock Services. Mr Hathway is currently negotiating legal and financial details with the interested parties and described the contest as a “close-knit finish”.

Novati general manager Marco Novati said his offer would preserve the centre’s connection with the Italian community.

“I’m Italian, I’ve around for long enough to know that nothing stops Italians occupying that space at all,” he said. “It’s a shame that the politics may take over rather than the logic.”

Mr Novati said he had offered to bring Co.As.It. in on the lease but was rejected. “They’re chasing their own dreams…but in my opinion it’s not a dream about the forum.”

He also said the forum’s commercial and residential strata title holders would not accept a childcare facility on the roof of the cultural centre.

Co.As.It. general manager Thomas Camporeale told a meeting of Leichhardt Council that “our bid doesn’t rely on us leasing the centre to any third party”.

“We will bring seniors to the centre, we will run classes from the centre, we will bring our library to the centre, we’ll run cooking classes from the centre and we’ll finally open this centre up to local schools and seniors’ productions,” he said.

The actors centre and other groups would still be welcome to lease the theatre.

Co.As.It. upped its initial $1.7 million offer to $2.2 million including a deferred payment, which has made its bid more competitive.

Mr Hathway said that because all creditors are likely to be paid in full, the assessment is more subjective than strictly financial, and would be about “what would suit the Leichhardt and Norton St forum”.

He told the Inner West Independent the decision will “predominantly” be made by Leichhardt Council, which has a $440,000 liability and responsibility for a $2.9 million contingent grant from the federal government.

Mr Hathway intends to outline the remaining proposals at this Tuesday’s council meeting.

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