Former RFG executives slapped with summons

Former executives of embattled franchisor Retail Food Group (RFG) have been formally summoned to appear in front of the parliamentary inquiry into franchising in November.

Previous managing director, Andre Nell, former chief executive Tony Alford and former executive Alicia Atkinson have all been noticeable admissions from the public hearings, however committee chair Michael Sukkar is now demanding the three face questioning.

According to both the Australian Financial Review and the Gold Coast Bulletin, in his address to parliament last week, Sukkar said the summons came as a result of the former RFG executives’ repeated refusal of requests to voluntarily attend inquiry hearings, which he found “highly discourteous and unusual”.

“I can confirm that summons have been issued to former RFG executives Mr Tony Alford, Mr Andre Nell and Ms Alicia Atkinson to appear before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services at a public hearing into the operation and effectiveness of the Franchising Code of Conduct. This follows four requests that have been denied,” Sukkar said.

“The committee would like to question Mr Alford, Mr Nell and Ms Atkinson about RFG’s business model and operations during their tenure.”

RFG has been the subject of many submissions to the inquiry, following an explosive report by Fairfax Media last year that revealed a series of financial issues with former and current franchisees.

While the ongoing Senate inquiry has heard from current executives of the franchisor, with now-CEO Richard Hinson appearing before the inquiry in September, many of the allegations against RFG heard in submissions stem from before his time.

The intense media scrutiny has severely damaged the group’s value, with share prices dropping close to 90 per cent since December, causing the closure of up to 200 franchise locations.

For Nell, Alford and Atkinson, refusal to appear will see the trio referred to the privileges committee, which will then consider if contempt has been committed before deciding on the appropriate punishment.

The three former executives have been told to appear on November 26.