However, an AMP spokeswoman said Victory first defaulted on its rent in 2019 and that AMP had provided ample warning it would need to take action over “significant outstanding debts”.
“We have been in good-faith discussions with Victory Offices for almost two years about its non-payment of rent at CBD properties in Sydney and Melbourne,” she said. “We put forward a number of proposals to Victory Offices. Despite agreeing to various options at different times, Victory has never made any payments for outstanding rents.”
The AMP spokeswoman said the investment management company had responsibilities to its investors, including Australian super funds managing retirement incomes.
“We were left with no choice but to take this action,” she said. “We have demonstrated compassion and support for Victory Offices at all times and feel we have done everything possible to avoid this outcome.”
Victory has been hit hard by Victoria’s lockdowns, noting in its March-quarter update that it was in negotiations to surrender five leases.
Its share price has fallen from $1.43 to $0.17 since the start of the pandemic.
But its spokesperson said Victory remained in a financially sound position. “Our board and senior management team is as confident as ever in our being a leader in the flexible workspace solution industry,” they said.
Founder and chief executive Dan Baxter recently injected $15 million into the business.
Collins Place law firm Roberts Gray Lawyers, which was locked out of the offices and is now acting for Victory, told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, that hundreds of small business owners, employing thousands of people, had been caught by surprise.
Principal Kevin Broadribb accused AMP of “gross unconscionable conduct” and “deceptive practices”.
“The claims made on behalf of AMP Capital are inaccurate and far-fetched. They are ludicrous,” he said.
“AMP Capital have definitely not bargained in good faith and have bypassed all reasonable offers to provide them with an income stream.”
Mr Broadribb said AMP had not been acting in the interests of its investors as it had halted revenue streams by taking away business from Victory when offering tenants free use of empty office space.
“This is un-Australian,” he said.
Mr Broadribb said the lockout had led to financial and legal trouble for some small businesses.
“We implore AMP to sign new leases with Victory so all the small businesses can stop bleeding and can move forward for the betterment of their business and the economy,” he said.
The Victory spokesperson did not answer questions about how many businesses had been affected by the closures.
The AMP spokeswoman said the firm had provided significant rent relief to its tenants during the pandemic and was among the first companies to welcome a mandatory code of conduct for commercial landlords.
The Victory spokesperson said it had reached compromises with almost all of its other landlords.
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