Dick Smith collapse: what we know and what we don't

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Dick Smith collapse: what we know and what we don't
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After more than a month of speculation, the announcement that Dick Smith was shutting down has brought some closure to the saga. While we know that receivers failed to find a suitable buyer for the failed retailer, there are still lingering questions about the future of Dick Smith and its remaining debts.

Here’s a breakdown of what we know, and what we don’t about the Dick Smith collapse.

What we know

Fire sale

Already on the ropes, Dick Smith failed to turn its luck around with a fire sale in December. The company advertised discounts up to 70 percent, but the biggest savings were only on private-label products such as phone chargers. The sale was sparked by a $60 million asset write-down, which hammered shares down to just 40 cents at the time.


Dick Smith officially sunk into administration on 5 January citing pressure to attain short-term funding as a major factor. McGrathNicol was appointed as administrator representing the business, while Ferrier Hodgson was appoint as the receiver by Dick Smith’s secured creditors.


One of the first blows to stakeholder confidence was that Dick Smith would not be honouring the value of gift cards. This came as particularly bad news for customers, as the vouchers were heavily advertised over the Christmas period.

Private equity

When Dick Smith fell to administration, eyes turned to a blog by investment analyst Matt Ryan, who had penned an article two months prior titled “Dick Smith is the greatest private equity heist of all time”.

Ryan claimed that private equity firm Anchorage had only paid $10 million out of its own pockets then used Dick Smith’s balance sheet and liquidated assets to fund the $115 million acquisition from Woolworths in 2012, then profit from the retailer's hugely successful public float – or, as Ryan wrote, "to turn Dick Smith from a $10m piece of mutton into a $520m lamb".

Chief executive

Chief executive Nick Abboud resigned a week after Dick Smith was placed in administration. He was replaced by Don Grover, former managing director of Retail Fusion Brands to see out the administration in the interim.


During the first creditors meeting, administrators McGrathNicol revealed that Dick Smith owed $390 million in debts, $140 million secured and $250 million unsecured.

Secured creditors

The Australian reported that the secured debt consists of $60 million in overdraft fees to HSBC, $35 million in revolving working capital to NAB and another $40 million to NAB’s New Zealand branch for working capital.

David Jones partnership

Electronics Powered by Dick Smith, the company's joint venture with David Jones, was an early casualty, seeing 181 staff let go and 27 outlets close.


Dick Smith receivers announced the company would officially close after failing to find a suitable buyer. The remaining 372 Dick Smith stores will close over the next eight weeks.

Job cuts

All remaining 2,460 Australian and 430 New Zealand staff will be let go when Dick Smith closes its doors over.


When receivers announced that Dick Smith was closing, they also said that all Australian employee entitlements are "expected" to be paid in full.


Days before stores closed, receivers made a statement to the ASX saying that shareholders were ranked last among all creditors – and hence likely to lose out. They also advised that transferring shares was not allowed unless there was a “compelling commercial or other reasons to do so.”


The company’s namesake, Dick Smith, was vocal in his thoughts on why the electronics retailer failed. Smith told Fairfax that: "you don't need to be very bright to realise that a company worth $90 million one moment is unlikely to be worth $500 million 12 months later just because it had a change of ownership".

"It was pretty obvious to me that anyone buying those shares would be taking quite a risk."

Gerry Harvey

Harvey Norman chief executive Gerry Harvey also took aim at Dick Smith’s listing. He told Fairfax he thought the world had gone mad when Dick Smith floated for $500 million, saying: "Then five minutes later this bloke [Anchorage Capital] dresses it up and sells it for $500 million [in 2013], and I'm looking at this and saying 'I don't believe this, this business is stuffed'... I'm thinking I wouldn't buy these shares for 10¢, let alone $2."

Next: What we don't know

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