EXCLUSIVE: What Harvey Norman Actually Did With Millions In JobKeeper Payments
When billionaire and Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey was pillored by the media and Labor politicians, for keeping millions in JobKeeper payments the man who often suffers from verbal diarrhea mysteriously kept his mouth shut on what he actually did with the money.
He did at one stage claim that he pays “enough money in taxes” to the Federal Government.
Now we can reveal that his Company Harvey Norman Holdings was in no position to give the money back because, as soon as it was received from the ATO it was given away, according to insiders at the big retailer.
Harvey Norman has 194 franchised stores in Australia and 107 Company operated stores including overseas operations.
In New Zealand along Harvey Norman netted $12M in JobKeeper payments and over $22M in Australia.
Apparently, the money went to franchisees whose businesses were struggling in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This business such as the seriously affected Victorian franchisees kept paying their staff 100% of their normal salaries, some staff were also paid the commission that they would normally earn in a given period.
During the last six months of 2020 first-half sales climbed 25% and contributed to a net profit after tax of $462.03m for the last six months of 2020 – up 116% on the same time period in the previous year.
Harvey Norman said it would pay dividends totalling $249m, of which Harvey is set to receive $78m due to his 31.4% shareholding in the company.
This led to calls for Harvey Norman to pay back the JobKeeper money.
The only problem was that Gerry Harvey and CEO Katie Page remained quiet on what they had actually done with the money.
This is rare for Gerry Harvey who suffers from verbal diarrhea and often dribbles at the mouth when people challenge him for an answer.
He once told the Australian Financial Review Retail Editor to “Piss off”.
It doesn’t take much to set Gerry Harvey off and when he was being pillored by media organisations and Labor politicians, except the one who stood up for him he failed to reveal that his JobKeeper money had been passed on to franchisees.
His past outbursts are legendary, one classic example was his dealings with the Australian Shareholders Association monitor Pamela Murray-Jones, at one of his AGM’s who represents the very small shareholders Harvey claims to prefer on his register (presumably because they’re easier to take advantage of in capital raisings).
Harvey’s son Michael, on the board since 1993, was up for re-election. So, Murray-Jones asked the obvious question: how he manages the conflicts of interest his position puts him in.
He responded by affirming his independence. “That’s the rule in this family.” After which his father added: “It might be different in your family, lady.”
Charming. Said “lady” who responded by reminding the board her name was Pamela. He later described the ASA as “nobodies” who “don’t represent anyone”.
Companies that have paid back JobKeeper payments after recovering from the coronavirus crisis include Nick Scali, Premier Invests who made the announcement days after former JB Hi Fi CEO Richard Murray joined the Company.
JB Hi Fi and The Good Guys took no JobKeeper handouts.