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Supafest embroiled in debt chase for unpaid royalties

No-show: Rick Ross.

No-show: Rick Ross.

LIKE many of the artists who have toured under its banner, Supafest has always lived on the edge. But now the urban music festival could be about to topple right over that edge - and all because of a debt some of its more forgiving creditors might consider rather small change indeed.

The Phonographic Performance Company of Australia, which collects royalties for artists, has made an application in the Victorian Supreme Court to wind up Paper Chase Touring and Entertainment Pty Ltd, the major partner in Supafest Pty Ltd with a 46 per cent holding. The PPCA is chasing $13,200 in unpaid fees, a debt that stretches back to April 2011.

But some of the company's other creditors - including Stadium Australia Operations, owner of the former Sydney Olympic stadium in Homebush; Julie Rosenberg, wife of Sydney stockbroker Lance; and the property-developing Wolanski family - are understood to have rolled over debts in the millions on the promise that one more year is all Supafest needs to hit paydirt.

Supafest has seemingly flirted with disaster throughout its brief history. The festival has been bringing controversial artists such as Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown and Ice Cube to Australia since 2010, and along the way has had to deal with visa issues (for 2010 headliner Akon), cancellations (Timbaland in 2011 and Rick Ross in 2012), and ''confusions'' over bookings that led to a public and heated exchange starring a couple of this year's festival drawcards.

Rapper P. Diddy failed to arrive this year because, he says, the promised appearance fee was not forthcoming. He tweeted to his 5 million-plus followers on April 10: ''The promoters never sent the money for the show i love you guys! I'm MAD as F---''.

Fellow headliner Missy Elliott was equally miffed, claiming she had never agreed to appear in the festival, despite being used by Supafest in its promotional material. Her management said: ''The promoter began advertising without confirmation from our end or contracts as it pertains to Missy's appearance.''

Behind the scenes, it appears things haven't been smooth either. Supafest Pty Ltd was founded in April 2010 by promoter and soccer marketing figure John Denison and his Chicago-born business partner Dwayne Cross.

Denison owns 39 per cent of Supafest through Denison Corporation Pty Ltd, and Cross 46 per cent through Paper Chase. On April 16, 2012, a receiver was appointed to Supafest on behalf of Sydney businessman Peter Brent, then called off the following day. On April 16, 2012, a receiver was also appointed to Paper Chase, again on behalf of Mr Brent. That action was also called off the following day.

In August 2011, Paper Chase was in receivership for two weeks over a $340,000 debt owed to Simon Delzoppo, co-founder of the domain-name business AusRegistry, before settling. According to a well-placed source, creditors have sought to secure their outstanding debts against Paper Chase, Supafest and Denison Corporation. The application for winding up is due to be heard on June 6.

kquinn@theage.com.au

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