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The rise and fall and rise again of the dance music promoter Future Music, which recently joined forces with Michael Gudinski's mighty Mushroom Group, looks a little like the shell game so famously played on New York's street corners. And the person holding the cups in this round is a mystery woman called Maria Papadimitriou.

Long-term associates and former employees of the Future group insist they have never heard of her, but Ms Papadimitriou is the key figure in the transfer of the high-profile Future brand to a new company, Future Music Pty Ltd, whose directors are Michael Gudinski and his son Matt.

Michael Gudinski told Fairfax Media that the recent financial difficulties of the Future group - which is understood to have sustained a huge loss on January's Summadayze touring festival and to have struggled with its flagship Future Music festivals in March 2012 and 2013 - had prompted his interest. ''But I didn't really get a sense of the scale of [the problems] until we started due diligence, a couple of months ago,'' he said.

On August 30, his Mushroom Group announced a ''strategic alliance'' with the Future Music Festival, to take it and its under-18s sibling Good Life Festival to ''new heights''. Mr Gudinski insists no money changed hands and it was not a takeover.

On the same day as the deal was announced, the Federal Court heard that one of the companies that used to run the festival, Future Entertainment Pty Ltd, was ''essentially a two-dollar company'' whose only assets ''appear to be … six trademarks'' that had recently been transferred out of the company.

Justice Bernard Murphy noted the company appeared to be ''impecunious'', and observed that the trademark assets may have been transferred ''because they [the company] were being sued and pursued in other proceedings''.

As it happens, the company in question, along with two others in the Future group, were wound up in the Supreme Court of Victoria less than a week later over a debt of $22,215. (The unsuspecting may not have noticed, however, as their names had been changed in June from ''Future'' to ''Music Events'', presumably to avoid attention.)

An investigation by Fairfax Media has since uncovered debts of more than $500,000 owed by the three companies, with the liquidator's investigation now under way expected to uncover much more.

Just nine months earlier, BRW had estimated the 2011-12 earnings of Future group founders Jason Ayoubi and Mark Condron (aka Mark James) at a combined $4.66 million.

Whatever the final tally of the companies' debts, Michael Gudinski insists his company, Future Music Pty Ltd, should not be held responsible for them. ''This is an entirely new company,'' Mr Gudinski said. ''It has nothing to do with those other companies.''

Nonetheless, the liquidator has already signalled his intention to look closely at the circumstances surrounding the transfers of assets, brands and intellectual property in the dying days of the old Future (aka Music Events) companies.

What is already clear is that since May, Ms Papadimitriou has registered three companies with links to the Future group, two of them at the old company's South Melbourne address and the third at a former AV Jennings display home in outer-suburban Epping.

Also in May, some of the trademarks associated with Mr Ayoubi and Mr Condron's companies were transferred to Ms Papadimitriou. The websites futureentertainment.com.au and futuremusicfestival.com.au are also registered to one of the companies in her name.

Staff at Future Entertainment in Sydney and Melbourne have confirmed to Fairfax Media that she works at the group, though in what capacity or for how long she has been there they refused to say.

Michael Gudinski told Fairfax Media that Ms Papadimitriou is the person from whom he in effect bought the Future Music Festival last month.

''I believe that an investor had bought some assets and that's where we got involved,'' Mr Gudinski said.

''That's who we bought the IP [intellectual property] from, that woman you asked the name of.''

Asked to confirm the third party in question was Maria Papadimitriou, Mr Gudinski replied: ''Yep.''

Though insistent his company was a new venture, Mr Gudinski said former Future boss Mr Ayoubi would have a role, though he would not be a director or shareholder. ''Jason has no financial involvement. However, he'll be doing some consulting,'' he said.

Brett Robinson, whom industry sources identify as having been a major player in the Future group, would have a leadership role in the new entity.

''Brett has worked under difficult circumstances in recent times,'' said Mr Gudinski, who employed Mr Robinson at his label Mushroom Distribution Services in the 1990s. ''He will definitely continue to be involved in running it.''

Mr Gudinski said Mr Condron, who is understood to be living in Thailand, ''has no involvement whatsoever'' in the new entity.

Ms Papadimitriou declined to return calls.

kquinn@fairfaxmedia.com.au