Coffee king creates new stir with RFG job ‘conflict’

He made the alleged menace final yr when nonetheless a marketing consultant to RFG, nevertheless it was Mr Di Bella’s appointment as “executive chairman” of Di Bella Coffee that has heightened considerations from firm insiders about perceived conflicts of curiosity.

Mr Di Bella began the Di Bella Coffee enterprise in Brisbane in 2002, and it grew quickly supplying cafes and eating places throughout Australia, earlier than he bought it to ASX-listed RFG for $47 million in 2014.

My considerations are that a person able of affect is benefiting personally from supplying merchandise to people who find themselves already doing it actually, actually robust.

Company supply

By supplying RFG’s giant cafe community, Di Bella Coffee is now the nation’s second largest coffee roasting firm.

Documents obtained by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald present Di Bella Coffee is shopping for round $90,00zero of uncooked coffee beans a month on common – or about $1 million a yr – from International Coffee Traders (ICT).

Corporate paperwork present that ICT has two co-owners and co-directors: Mr Di Bella and his spouse Gianna.

ICT’s gross sales are destined for RFG’s roastery in Brisbane, which makes beans bought to unbiased cafes, and for RFG’s cafe manufacturers.

“If he is making the purchasing decision at Di Bella, what kind of commercial terms is he getting for ICT?” stated one firm supply, stating the RFG’s franchisees are contractually sure to purchase the product.

“My concerns are that an individual in a position of influence is benefiting personally from supplying products to people who are already doing it really, really tough.”

It is claimed Mr Di Bella reacted explosively when points across the high quality of ICT beans emerged in center of 2018.

Several individuals have informed The Age and SMH they witnessed Mr Di Bella yell at employees at RFG’s Brisbane roasting plant, and warn them that “someone is going to get thrown out of a window” if ICT’s beans continued to fail high quality assurance exams.

RFG owns Gloria Jean’s, Michel’s and different well-known manufacturers. Credit:Jessica Shapiro

Several employees formally complained about Mr Di Bella’s behaviour. He was subsequently put in control of RFG’s complete coffee bean enterprise.

Asked concerning the alleged incident Mr Di Bella stated: “That’s not true”. RFG declined to touch upon the difficulty.

With aspirations of abroad progress, RFG’s coffee bean enterprise is likely one of the firm’s most necessary divisions because it fights for survival.

The firm, which additionally owns the Crust Pizza and Brumby’s Bakery chains, has been in disaster since late 2017, when The Age and SMH revealed that many of its franchisees were struggling to survive and raised questions concerning the sustainability of its enterprise mannequin. That has seen RFG’s share worth crash from $four.40 to 20¢ at the moment, slicing its market worth from $800 million to $37 million.


RFG says that its mixed Di Bella Coffee operation is Australia’s second largest coffee roaster, supplying 3000 cafes and recording complete gross sales of $53.7 million final monetary yr, when RFG posted a $306 million loss.

Insiders questioned why Mr Di Bella was main Di Bella Coffee’s push into the USA whereas additionally being concerned in his personal American roasting enterprise, Abbotsford Road, based mostly in New York.

Mr Di Bella has been consulting to RFG on coffee issues because it purchased his enterprise and stated on Thursday the RFG board informed him that within the new job he can be “empowered and able to run the enterprise.”

He stated there was no battle of curiosity between his positions at RFG and ICT, and was not concerned within the latter’s day-to-day operations.

ICT has needed to compete with different bean suppliers for RFG contracts since July 2017, Mr Di Bella stated, with RFG given transparency round ICT’s pricing due to his place consulting to the corporate.

There is not any battle so long as the whole lot’s clear. It doesn’t matter who owns the enterprise, you comply with procedures and methods.

Phillip Di Bella

“Everything is clear, which suggests they get to see the purchase worth, the price worth and the margins,” he stated.

“There is no conflict as long as everything’s transparent. It doesn’t matter who owns the business, you follow procedures and systems.”

RFG stated it had insurance policies in place to make sure conflicts of curiosity have been managed appropriately together with aggressive tendering with a number of suppliers evaluated for availability, pricing, safety and high quality.

“All transactions between International Coffee Traders and RFG are carried out on a clear and business foundation, at arm’s size,” she stated.

RFG stated that ICT had provided about 7 per cent of its inexperienced bean purchases this monetary yr.

Seven per cent of the three.6 million kilograms of coffee beans RFG purchased final yr, bought at an estimated common worth of round $5 a kilogram, would simply surpass a $1 million in gross sales for ICT.

Mr Di Bella stated the entire was a lot decrease than that however declined to offer a quantity.

RFG stated Mr Di Bella was main the coffee bean enterprise and was an “integral a part of the management group”, however had not been made a director of RFG or any of its subsidiaries.

RFG didn’t alert buyers to the departure of Di Bella Coffee’s former chief government Darren Dench, a member of its senior government administration.

The firm stated it was “not assessed as info warranting market disclosure”.

Mr Di Bella began his coffee enterprise in Brisbane in 2002 and by 2014 had amassed a $100 million private fortune, in response to the BRW Rich List.

The 44-year-old was introduced with Telstra’s Queensland Business of the Year Award that very same yr, nevertheless was stripped of the award over offensive social media posts made throughout a State of Origin rugby league match performed the next day.

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