A disgraced businessman has quit his position at the top of ice hockey’s national governing body, days before The Age and Herald and A Current Affair were due to expose his financial past.
Grove Bennett junior.
Grove Bennett left behind millions of dollars of debt when he fled to Australia from Canada in 2017.
Bennett – the son of a 1970s ice hockey star of the same name – embedded himself within Ice Hockey Australia and within a fortnight, in September last year, he was appointed a board director and then president.
By March, he had created a new position for himself, one that did not previously exist: chief executive.
Former treasurer Adrian Miller, who voted for Bennett’s initial board appointment, quit in protest when he learnt of Bennett’s past.
“If he had disclosed [his past] absolutely I would not have endorsed him or voted for him at all,” he said.
Miller said his concerns about appointing a CEO without a recruitment process fell on deaf ears, in a scandal he describes as “damaging” to the small winter sport.
The position gave Bennett access to the more than $2 million in Ice Hockey Australia’s bank account. He resigned last Thursday.
“[Bennett] individually rang myself and other directors to push the idea [of the CEO position]. It was not raised by anybody else on the board,” Miller said.
Sandi Logan, an ice hockey player of six decades, lobbied the board to sack Bennett.
“I’ve got serious reservations as a member, as do the other 5000 members of Ice Hockey Australia, about the couple of hundred bucks I pay every year to the organisation,” Logan said.
“Where’s it going? Who’s using it? Who has access to it?”
Former Ice Hockey Australia chief executive Grove Bennett junior.
While multiple sources familiar with board discussions told The Age and Herald a salary for Bennett’s position as CEO was discussed, Ice Hockey Australia, in an online post, denied money was ever paid.
Bennett’s former Canadian business partner, Steven Barclay, said he almost lost everything after being caught in the self-described high-performance coach’s wake.
In 2014, Bennett and Barclay purchased a Canadian disability aid company, Aroga Technologies.
In a spin-off venture, Bennett peddled “quantum-infused” hologram patches, which claimed to help with a range of issues, from weight loss to sleep.
As bills mounted and Aroga Technologies defaulted on its loan, the Toronto-Dominion bank filed a lawsuit against Bennett, accusing him of siphoning money from the disability company into his hologram business.
The bank also accused Bennett of providing “false” and “misleading” information about his business’ financial affairs and using the loan to fund his and his wife’s lifestyle.
“He basically started treating his company as his personal piggy bank,” Barclay told The Age, Herald and A Current Affair from his Vancouver home.
“I started to learn something was amiss when I couldn’t get even simple answers to accounting questions.”
With the bank pursuing, Bennett and his family packed their suitcases, wiped their social media accounts and bought a one-way ticket to Australia.
“He just vanished one day,” Barclay said. “Nobody knew where he had gone, nobody could contact him.”
According to Canadian bankruptcy records, Bennett owed 62 creditors around $3.2 million, (A$3.56 million) which he blamed on “business failure” and “financial mismanagement”.
Bennett racked up a $100,000 (A$111,000) credit card bill and the tax office was after him for more than $1 million (A$1.11 million). That does not include the debts owed by his business.
Bennett now lives in Patterson Lakes, southeast of Melbourne, where he also runs the Boomers Tennis Academy.
He and Ice Hockey Australia did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
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