Glen Norris, The Courier-Mail September 13, 2019 11:37am Subscriber only 7 minute read
HOW could one of Queensland’s most respected building firms, favoured by government and highly accredited in the construction industry end up collapsing owing $50 million and putting more than 200 people out of work?
A public examination in the Federal Court by the liquidator of JM Kelly Group has resulted in explosive claims about the Rockhampton-based company’s business practices including allegedly lying to the building watchdog about its finances, falsifying a contract and paying select creditors while leaving others unpaid.
For a construction sector reeling from a series of corporate collapses in recent years, the story of JM Kelly raises questions about regulatory oversight in the building sector and the treatment of creditors in an increasingly tough industry.
JM Kelly founder Geoff Murphy was one of six children and grew up in hard-scrabble circumstances in Toowoomba. After finishing school, he undertook a carpentry apprenticeship working with another tradie called Jack Kelly.
Determined to improve his family circumstances and his future by going into business for himself, he borrowed 50 pounds from Kelly in 1969 to set up a building company.
Kelly owned a percentage of the company and it was called ‘JM Kelly’. Later Mr Murphy’s son John and daughter Elizabeth joined the company.