COAL baron Nathan Tinkler yesterday edged closer to the brink of financial disaster after failing to comply with a court order to pay Mirvac about $17 million to settle a property deal.
Two of Mr Tinkler's private companies agreed to buy an industrial site in Newcastle from Mirvac in July 2011 but failed to settle after the New South Wales government knocked back his plans for a fifth coal export terminal at Mayfield.
Mirvac sued and on August 1 the Supreme Court of NSW ordered Tinkler's Ocean Street Holdings and guarantor the Buildev Group to complete the purchase, stipulating an effective deadline of 5pm yesterday. A spokesman for Mirvac yesterday said despite the court order, ''settlement did not take place''.
''Mirvac intends to pursue its rights in relation to this matter to ensure that effect is given to the court's orders and that the contract for the sale is completed.''
A senior commercial litigation lawyer said such judgment debts could be enforced in several ways, but the most common option in the case of a corporate debtor was to seek liquidation. The company's assets could also be seized by obtaining a court order. It would be up to Mirvac to decide whether to pursue the debt, the lawyer said.
Mr Tinkler, who moved his family to Singapore in June, declined to comment yesterday.
It is the second payment deadline missed by Mr Tinkler after his Mulsanne Resources failed last month to pay a promised $28 million to take up shares in listed junior coal explorer Blackwood Corporation. On Friday, Blackwood told the stock exchange it had ''commenced the process [of] exercising its legal rights against Mulsanne'' and would continue to investigate its options to seek recovery of the amounts outstanding.
Mr Tinkler, whose wealth was estimated at $915 million by BRW in May, has endured speculation about his financial position after the non-payment to Blackwood and the failure of a $5.3 billion bid to buy listed miner Whitehaven Coal, for $5.20 a share.
Mr Tinkler owns 21 per cent of Whitehaven, a stake that accounts for the bulk of his wealth but which has lost more than 40 per cent of its value since an April merger with Aston Resources and his private Boardwalk Resources.
Coal prices have slumped since the merger, putting pressure on Mr Tinkler, who is known to have substantial debts secured against his stake in Whitehaven and other assets, including his horseracing stud, Patinack Farm.
The full extent of Mr Tinkler's debts has not been confirmed but corporate filings indicate his maximum liability may be as high as $638 million, although his spokesman said the true figure was ''a mere fraction'' of that amount.