Tourism empire unravells
In their heyday Gold Coast tourism identities Bruce and Margaret Nicholls ferried holidaymakers and corporate partygoers to the couple's South Stradbroke resort aboard a luxury sailing yacht called Sir Henry Morgan.
Today the three-mast vessel is abandoned and lying in a Brisbane boatyard waiting to be broken up while the Nicholls' business Tallship Island Adventures is controlled by liquidators.
The family-run company, launched in 2004 and based next to Marina Mirage, offered day trips to the couple's McClarens Landing Resort as well as parasailing, whale watching and private parties for large companies.
Mr Nicholls was also on the board of the Gold Coast Tourism Corporation for several years.
These days the resort, which was once a hub for both booming parties and laid back drinks, is abandoned with vandals trashing the buildings on the site.
While the pandemic shutdown has impacted the recent fortunes of the company, signs of trouble emerged as long ago as 2013, when the couple put the leasehold to the resort and a 30m catamaran on the market.
The property failed to sell for some time and in the background the company was involved in a lengthy court dispute filed in 2009 that involved a passenger being punched in the face by another partygoer on its catamaran captained by the Nicholls' son Jason.
Although the company was eventually cleared of any liability in 2015, the case ran for six years and went all the way to Queensland's Court of Appeal.
The resort also attracted controversy in 2015 when five partygoers were taken to hospital, after ingesting drugs at an event.
Tallship Island Adventures next faced a skirmish with the tax man, going to court to set aside a statutory demand for payment in 2016. That matter was eventually settled.
ASIC records show that Mr and Mrs Nicholls' son Jason, 42, was a director of several related companies that have also failed in recent years.
They include Island World, McLarens Island and Tallships Sailing Cruises Australia. Island World, which had liquidators appointed to it in February last year, listed the Sir Henry Morgan as one of its key assets.
Jason Nicholls is currently facing several charges in Brisbane Magistrates Court including stealing and fraud, as well as motor vehicle offences that are next due for mention in October.
Following the appointment of receivers to a company controlled by Jason Nicholls in early 2019, new owners forked out $825,000 to take control of the resort earlier this year.
James Imray, of Rodgers Reidy, said he had just been appointed as liquidator of Tallship Island Adventures so could not comment on how much is owed to various creditors.
Mr Imray said the company was being wound up by ASIC so that employees owed entitlements could apply under the Federal Government's Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG) scheme. FEG is a scheme of last resort that provides financial assistance for unpaid employee entitlements in an insolvency.
Meanwhile the Sir Henry Morgan, that featured a bar and lounge area accommodating up to 70 passengers, awaiting scrapping at The Yard marina in Hemmant.
Originally published as How Queensland tourism empire unravelled