The 27 remaining Darrell Lea stores in Australia will close after the company was today sold to the Queensland-based Quinn family.

The 27 remaining Darrell Lea stores in Australia will close after the company was today sold to the Queensland-based Quinn family. Photo: Wayne Taylor

More than 400 Darrell Lea workers will lose their jobs after a deal was struck to sell the troubled chocolate maker to the Queensland-based Quinn Family.

The confectionery company was sold for an undisclosed price today to the Quinn family, which plans to restructure the loss-making business, including the closure of 27 company-owned stores within days.

The family, which specialises in pet food manufacturing and distribution, said the restructure would result in 246 permanent and 172 casual Darrell Lea employees being made redundant.

The remaining 27 Darrell Lea company-owned stores will cease trading on Sunday, September 9, as part of the restructure led by PPB Advisory.

However chocolate-lovers will still be able to buy Darrell Lea goods through the network of 1,200 licensed retailers, wholesalers and exporters.

Darrell Lea was put up for sale in July after administrators took control of the company to save it from financial ruin.

The chocolate manufacturer had been experiencing trading problems for some time, with weak retail conditions partly to blame.

Darrell Lea in August halved the number of its stores and axed nearly 200 jobs.

Under the Queensland-based Quinn family’s restructure, only 83 employees will remain at the company.

The Lea family said the sale was necessary to preserve the commercial value of the company.

“The Lea family acknowledges that this has been a very challenging period for everybody involved with the Darrell Lea business,’’ the family said in a statement.

“The family believes that it has acted to the best of its ability to protect the interests of staff, licensees, suppliers and other key stakeholders.’’

Australian ownership

A spokesperson for the Quinn family said they wanted to ensure the iconic brand remained under Australian ownership.

“Our company has a strong history of building sustainable Australian-based businesses, and it is our aim to do the same with Darrell Lea,’’ the spokesperson said.

In a statement issued this afternoon, PPB Advisory said those employees affected by this decision would have all superannuation and wage entitlements paid in full.

“This sale represents the best outcome for Darrell Lea and it ensures that this iconic Australian brand and its manufacturing operations can continue to operate locally and stay Australian-owned,’’ according to PPB Advisory’s Mark Robinson.

The Quinn family are Australia's largest fresh chilled pet food manufacturer and have been valued at $350 million by BRW magazine.

New investment

"Further highlighting their commitment to the future, the Quinn Family has announced a property investment for the construction of a new purpose-built Darrell Lea facility. This will strengthen their Darrell Lea manufacturing and innovation capabilities," the release said.

"The family believes it is a time for planning for success in order to continue the history of Darrell Lea into the next phase of the business," the statement said.

Darrell Lea had been controlled by the Lea family since Harry Lea started making sweets in 1917. A shop was opened in New South Wales in 1927. By the time it appointed voluntary administrators PPB Advisory, Darrell Lea had 69 company-owned and franchised stores in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

On its appointment, PPB closed dozens of stores but reported strong buyer interest in the company.

With Madeleine Heffernan, BusinessDay and AAP