Former Geneva Finance manager Stephen Wilkinson replaces Rudi Kats as Broadlands Finance CEO

Former Geneva Finance manager Stephen Wilkinson replaces Rudi Kats as Broadlands Finance CEO

By Gareth Vaughan

Stephen Wilkinson, most recently general manager of sales and finance at Geneva Finance, has replaced Rudi Kats as CEO of fellow consumer lender Broadlands Finance.

Kats, who joined Broadlands in March 2007, told interest.co.nz it was his decision to leave and it was largely for lifestyle reasons. Broadlands, which rejected the offer of a funding line from US vulture fund Fortress Credit Corporation in 2007, is owned by wealthy car dealer Tony Radisich.

Kats said the last three and a half years had been "hard yakka."

"As an individual I had to say 'I’ve got young kids, I’m 56 years old, I’ve started back later in life, (and) I want to spend sometime with the family rather than run a finance company'," Kats said.

He said he would take a couple of months off and then seek advisory work.

"I don’t think I’d like to do the 70 to 80 hours a week again. And I don’t think I need to do it anymore," said Kats.

Broadlands was in "a good spot" so he didn’t feel guilty about leaving. Kats also said his relationship with Radisich, with whom he had been friends for "a long, long time", was as good as ever.

"Today Broadlands, if they play their cards right, can probably do a whole lot of good things." Kats added.

Wilkinson's background includes stints at Equitable Life, Marac & SCF's Auckland Finance

Aside from the role at Geneva which is now known as GFNZ Group, Wilkinson has also previously held positions at Marac Finance's Ascend Finance and South Canterbury Finance's Auckland Finance. He was also CEO of Equitable Life from 1995 to 1996. Meanwhile, former Equitable Group IT and marketing manager Andrew Mexted-Bragg has replaced Grant Hetherington as Broadlands' general manager of funding.

Mexted-Bragg said Broadlands was looking to get its debenture book "moving again" and looking for other sources of funding such as bank loans.

"We don't want to be solely reliant on debenture funding," Mexted-Bragg said.

He said a combination of NZ$20 million to NZ$25 million worth of debenture funding, and a similar amount of bank funding supplemented with shareholder funding from Radisich, would ultimately lead to a "nice profitable business."

Broadlands' last financial results, for the six months to September 30 last year, show a profit after tax of NZ$3.9 million versus a profit of NZ$893,285 in the same period of the previous year. It had NZ$13.3 million worth of debentures on issue, plus a NZ$5.7 million loan from Radisich's Timberton Investments Ltd. The prospectus also outlines NZ$10.5 million worth of deals with Radisich associated entities for rent, vehicle leasing and loans. The September financial statements show share capital of NZ$14 million and retained earnings of NZ$5 million.

Radisich committed in a prospectus last year not to withdraw support from Broadlands within the 12 months from August 20, 2010. Kats told interest.co.nz last September the Radisich guarantee was for auditor BDO’s purposes, as a guarantee the firm can make bill payments as a going concern over the next year.

Broadlands replaced BDO with Grant Thornton as its auditor late last year and saw its allowance for impairment on its gross finance contract receivables more than halve to NZ$5.2 million at September 30 on NZ$34 million worth of receivables, from NZ$11.8 million on NZ$35.4 million worth at March 31.

Standard & Poor’s cut its speculative, or "junk", grade credit rating on Broadlands to B from BB- with the outlook remaining negative in December citing the consumer lender's weak liquidity position, vulnerable funding profile, and high-risk loan portfolio.

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