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Australian automotive auctioneer Mossgreen folds

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Photos courtesy Mossgreen.

The Australian auction house that last year aimed to set a record for the most expensive car sold in Australia – and prior to that, claimed the record for the most expensive Australian car sold at auction – has folded after a brief period in administration, according to Australian news outlets.

Founded as an Australiana and art auction house in 2004 by Paul Sumner and his wife Amanda Swanson, Mossgreen began a rapid expansion process over the last few years, a process that Sumner told The Guardian happened too fast, thus leading to its voluntary administration by BDO Australia in late December. BDO’s assessment found that Mossgreen owed $12 million to about 400 total creditors and had just $2.8 million in assets.

Part of that expansion included Mossgreen’s Motoring department, which formed in 2014 with a former Christie’s automotive director at the helm, and which became the official auction house for the annual Motorclassica car show in Melbourne. Last year’s Motorclassica auction promised a whopper: a 1955 Jaguar D-Type once owned by Duncan Hamilton that Mossgreen billed as “the most expensive car to ever go to auction in Australia.” In a pre-auction press release, Sumner said that it “no doubt will set new records on auction night.” Estimated to sell for $7 million to $8 million, it ultimately attracted a top bid of just $5.5 million and did not sell.

That came after Mossgreen had heavily hyped a 1977 Holden Torana A9X that privateer Bob Morris famously drove to the 1979 Australian Touring Car Championship, beating the heavily funded factory teams. The Torana, which went to auction in Sydney in May of last year, was predicted to be the first Australian car to sell for more than $1 million. Instead, it sold for $705,000, and while that selling price was short of the $850,000 low end of the pre-auction estimate, it still managed to set a record for Australian-built cars at auction, beating out the first Australian-built Holden 48-215, which sold for $672,000 in 2013.

(Another Holden, the first Holden Dealer Team-prepped 1969 Monaro GTS, was similarly predicted to become the first million-dollar Australian car last fall, but ultimately sold for $500,000.)

While BDO appeared ready to pursue a restructuring plan last month and keep the auction house operating, the administrators announced “an orderly wind-down” to Mossgreen following a creditors meeting earlier this month.

While Sumner had previously promised to make good on Mossgreen’s debts, the collapse of the company – reportedly triggered by one of its primary investors backing out – appears to leave all but its one secured creditor out of pocket. BDO has promised to return any property consigned for future auctions.