ABOUT 275 jobs are on the line after the company that owns Australia's 100-year-old tomato sauce brand Rosella was placed in receivership on Monday, owing millions to its creditors, including the National Australia Bank.
Fairfax Media understands Gourmet Food Holdings, which employs 140 people at its biscuit factory in Dandenong, Victoria, and 110 at its sauce and condiments factory in Seven Hills in Sydney, could owe NAB as much as $50 million.
Ferrier Hodgson partners Steve Sherman, Jim Sarantinos and John Lindholm were appointed receivers after creditors failed to find a buyer for the company, which had gone into voluntary administration on Friday.
A Ferrier Hodgson spokesman said it was ''too early to say'' whether there would be any job losses.
''We're going to do what we can to preserve jobs,'' he said.
The NSW secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, Tim Ayres, said it was hard to remain optimistic.
"We're very worried that, with no notice, an administrator has been appointed,'' he said. ''In the lead up to Christmas, every worker is going to be concerned.''
The receivers said an expressions-of-interest campaign would be launched in the next 24 to 48 hours to try to find a buyer for the company.
Besides Rosella, Gourmet Food Holdings also owns New Zealand-based organic food brand Pitango, and Victorian biscuit company Waterwheel.
''The receivers will be undertaking an urgent assessment of the financial position of the group. We're going to do what we can to preserve jobs,'' Mr Sherman said. ''We will be engaging in discussions with key stakeholders including employees, customers and suppliers to determine whether operations can be continued.''
The company is owned by Crescent Capital and is the latest private equity-run business to collapse, following Colorado, Angus & Robertson and Borders. Musical instrument chain Allans Billy Hyde, which was also owned by Crescent Capital, collapsed this year, leaving more than 500 staff without jobs.