Burger billionaire refuses to pay rent
Fast food billionaire Jack Cowin has joined the growing list of Australian business leaders embarking on a rent strike during the coronavirus crisis.
The Canadian-born owner of Burger King's Australian franchise, Hungry Jack's, has an estimated net worth of $2.79 billion, according to the Australian Financial Review's Rich List.
But despite his personal fortune - and the fact that his restaurants are still operating in a takeaway-only capacity during the pandemic - Mr Cowin recently wrote a letter to landlords explaining his tough stance.
"We propose to defer gross rent for three months, or until the restrictions are lifted and our company's trading patterns show signs of returning to normal," the letter reads, according to the West Australian.
In the letter, he allegedly said the restaurant industry had been especially impacted by the COVID-19 fallout and that as a result, the business' cash flow needed to be protected during this period.
Mr Cowin's decision comes hot on the heels of high profile "rent strikes" in the retail industry, with retail mogul Solomon Lew's Premier Investments and shoe retailer Accent Group both refusing to pay rent during the crisis after voluntarily closing stores and temporarily standing down staff.
Last month, Mr Lew blasted landlords across the country for not doing their bit to ease the burden on trading while the nation's population was forced to self-isolate and the foot traffic in malls sharply declined.
He said he will refuse to pay rent for his stores until the social distancing measures were loosened, with chief executive Mark McInnes reiterating the call to arms in a statement.
"Premier calls on everyone in the Australian community to do their part in protecting our people and our country from the devastating health and economic impacts of COVID-19 so that we can recover and reopen as soon as possible," Mr McInnes said.
Meanwhile, the Australian Financial Review reported earlier this month that Red Rooster's parent company Craveable Brands had contacted a Melbourne landlord to claim it would be cutting the rent for April due to the virus.
The company allegedly said it would pay half of the rent and outgoings for April "within three days of receiving signed consent", and would re-asses the situation the following month.
Mr Cowin arrived in Australia in 1969 and began his fast food empire with a KFC outlet in Perth.
He opened the first Hungry Jack's restaurant in Innaloo in Perth in 1971 and now chairs Competitive Foods Australia, which operates the Hungry Jack's franchise which has more than 400 stores across the country.
Mr Cowin is also the top shareholder of Domino's Pizza.
News.com.au contacted Hungry Jack's and Red Rooster for comment.
Originally published as Burger billionaire refuses to pay rent