Cinema mogul buys Max Brenner chain
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Cinema mogul buys Max Brenner chain

The Max Brenner cafe chain, once marketed with the tag line “chocolate by the bald man”, is now owned by an Italian-born opera singer with a quiff that would put Elvis to shame.

BDO's Andrew Sallway confirmed to Fairfax Media that the failed chocolate cafe chain had been sold to United Cinema’s owner Roy Mustaca.

United Cinemas owner Roy Mustaca.

United Cinemas owner Roy Mustaca. Credit:Jonathan Ng

Mr Sallway said the Mustaca family did not wish to comment on the purchase.

Mr Mustaca acquired the Collaroy Cinema on Sydney’s northern beaches more than 30 years ago and went on to set up a chain of independent cinemas across Australia under the United Cinemas banner.

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The sale ends the uncertainty over the future of the chain, which was put into administration last month. The administrators shut 20 stores and put the remaining 17 up for sale.

Husband and wife team Tom (or Tamir) and Lilly Haikin amassed a fortune after opening the first Max Brenner chocolate bar in Paddington, Sydney in 2000.

The couple blamed rising costs and a sluggish retail sector for its collapse, but an expensive overhaul of the company's head office in Alexandria, in Sydney’s inner south, also appears to have been a major contributor. It hit the group's cash flows so hard it stopped paying staff superannuation for the last six months of 2016.

The collapse of the business triggered a scramble among the various creditors for influence over its eventual sale.

The sales process came to an abrupt halt last month when the master franchise owner, Max Brenner Industries, withdrew the licence for the local Max Brenner business and successfully applied to have BDO's Mr Sallway appointed liquidator.

Mr Sallway announced the sale of the business the following day to Queensland businessmen David and Craig Tozer but the deal collapsed before the week was over.

Another of Max Brenner’s creditors, Glenn Wein, then appointed receivers over Max Brenner property that he held as security for his loans. It was seen as a move to give him a seat at the table for any eventual sale of the business.

Early this month, the Musaca family changed the name of one of their companies, Opera Developments Pty Ltd to MC Chocolate Pty Ltd, according to documents lodged with ASIC.

Colin Kruger is a business reporter. He joined the Sydney Morning Herald in 1999 as its technology editor. Other roles have included the Herald's deputy business editor and online business editor.

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