Brendon Watkins
Partner, Melbourne
I have over 35 years' experience advising clients on all aspects of insolvency (including both restructuring work and formal appointments), with additional expertise focusing on securities enforcement, commercial disputes and general risk management. My clients include all the major banks in Australia and leading accounting firms that specialise in restructuring and insolvency. I also regularly advise companies and their boards.

I am one of only three lawyers in Australia to be recognised as a global expert in Insolvency and Restructuring in Expert Guides, 'Best of the Best' (2014 & 2016) and am listed in the Top 30 restructuring and insolvency practitioners globally in Expert Guides, 'Best of the Best' for 2020. Chambers Asia Pacific Guide (2020) reports that Brendon Watkins is eminently respected for his practice, which encompasses both formal insolvency and informal restructuring mandates, with one client noting: "He can solve the world on any insolvency matter." IFLR1000 (2020) notes "He is simply the best insolvency lawyer in Melbourne" with another client stating "Brendon is a first class legal advisor and is my 'go to' practitioner for complex restructuring work. He is clearly in the top handful of practitioners in the country."

Career highlights

  • Banking Code Acted for a major Australian bank defending claims of unconscionable conduct, misrepresentation and breach of responsible lending provisions in the Banking Code. This case proceeded to the appellate court and has established a benchmark ruling on the relevant provisions of the Code.  
  • BDO restructure and sale Acted for Westpac in relation to the restructure of the accounting firm BDO in New South Wales and Victoria, including its subsequent merger with Grant Thornton.
  • Bevilles Acted for Bevilles, a household name in the jewellery business, implementing a successful restructure of its business through a deed of company arrangement.
  • Burrup Fertilisers receivership Acted for the receivers and managers of the assets and shares in Burrup Fertilisers Pty Ltd, and shares held in the parent entity Burrup Holdings Limited. The secured creditor's exposure to the broader Oswal Group of Companies exceeded A$900 million.
  • Careers Australia Group Limited Provided restructuring and insolvency advice to Careers Australia Group Limited prior to the appointment of voluntary administrators in May 2017, and subsequently acted for its administrators in the sale of its various educational colleges.
  • Centaur Mining receivership Acted for the receivers and managers of Centaur Mining, including in the sale of Centaur's prime nickel mine. The company had secured debts exceeding $650 million.
  • Channel Ten receivership Acted for the receivers and managers appointed to the Channel Ten group, advising on all aspects of the receivership including a sale of the group's assets.
  • Coomboona Acted for Ferrier Hodgson in their capacity as administrators of the Coomboona group of companies (a significant dairy producer), and subsequently, in their capacity as deed administrators. The administration led to a successful sale of the business.
  • Elders Group restructure Acted for the Elders Group in debt restructure negotiations with a syndicate of banks owed in excess of $1b (and consequentially, in the sale of its agricultural services business and managing a staged exit of their forestry business).
  • Great Southern receivership Acted for a syndicate of banks (owed in excess of $800m) and the receivers and managers (McGrathNicol) of the Great Southern Group. We advised on all aspects of the receivership, including a restructuring of the MIS schemes, and a sale of approximately 269,000 hectares of  land in the largest private forestry sale by area in Australia.
  • Harris Scarfe insolvent trading claim Acted for the non-executive directors of Harris Scarfe in an insolvent trading claim in which the liquidators claimed an amount in excess of $140 million from each director.
  • Lehman Brothers Acted on behalf of ANZ in the Lehman’s bankruptcy, including advice on close-out disputes under ISDA contracts.
  • Littore Wine Group receivership Acting for the secured creditor (Rabobank) and receivers and managers seeking recovery of an exposure in excess of $120m, including litigation to pursue fraudulent dispositions of property.
  • Opes Prime collapse Acted for ANZ in the collapse of Opes Prime Stockbroking, with approximately 1,200 clients and debts to ANZ of over A$700 million, Provided advice on the operation of securities lending agreements, implemented standstill agreements and acted on two class actions.
  • Pitard Knowles Acting for Ernst & Young in their capacity as liquidators of four companies within the Pitard Knowles Group. The group specialises in medium rise residential developments throughout metropolitan Melbourne.
  • Prime Trust Acted on behalf of the Lendlease Group defending litigation arising out of the insolvent collapse of Prime Trust, defending a claim in excess of $60m. The proceedings, affecting 35 separate parties, involved complex claims based on voidable transaction provisions that were triggered as a consequence of insolvency, as well as equitable claims linked to directors' duties and fiduciary breaches.
  • Sargon Capital Acting for a technology company in litigation commenced by the administrators of the Sargon Capital Group, for orders allowing them to sell third party property, including deliberation of detailed expert evidence regarding the value of third party rights.
  • Steinhoff Asia Pacific Restructuring Acting for Steinhoff Asia Pacific to provide urgent restructuring advice following disclosures of accounting irregularities by the global parent which resulted emergency meetings of various banking syndicates. SAP operates across 14 different businesses generating revenue in excess of A$2 billion.
  • Western Metals receivership Acted for US noteholders on their exposure to Western Metals, and subsequently, for the receivers and managers of the Western Metals group. Western Metals was then the fourth largest mining company in Australia. Secured debts exceeded $390 million.
  • Westpoint Group liquidation Acted for the liquidators of eight of the mezzanine finance companies within the Westpoint property group. Debts exceed $320 million.
  • Wittners Shoes Acting for the Wittners Family implementing a successful restructure of the Wittners Shoes business (a retailer with outlets across the eastern seaboard) with private equity participation.