David Lanning arrives at Federal Court in Brisbane.
David Lanning arrives at Federal Court in Brisbane.

BestJet’s “puppet’’ CEO gives evidence in court

A former chief executive officer of failed online travel booking company BestJet has told a court the owner's husband was the real CEO and he was just his "puppet''.

David Lanning, who resigned before BestJet was sold, said the company would have been trading insolvently last year, with cash flow issues and a negative net equity situation.

Mr Lanning was giving evidence at a Federal Court public examination by liquidators into the affairs of BestJet, which went into voluntary administration in December.

Mr Lanning said when he was made BestJet group CEO in March last year, owner Rachel James's husband, Michael James, "who ran the business'', tasked him with selling it.

Rachel James at BestJet. Picture: Annette Dew
Rachel James at BestJet. Picture: Annette Dew

"In reality, Michael James was the CEO and I was his puppet,'' Mr Lanning said.

He said he negotiated a US$18 million deal for a wealthy consortium to buy BestJet group, and after a 14-hour meeting Mr James signed a memorandum of understanding.

Mr Lanning said the buyers were going to inject funds until money from a wholesaler came on board and Michael James was to retain a shareholding.

He said the BestJet group had needed of a capital injection for some time.

Mr Lanning said after the agreement Mr James changed his mind and asked him to restructure the whole thing, under new terms which were rejected by the buyers.

He said afterwards Mr James excluded him from other sale negotiations and he left before BestJet was sold to McVicker International for $1.5 million.

Mr Lanning said he is still owed $20,900.

The hearing continues on Friday.