What happened to King Brothers?

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What happened to King Brothers?

Post by Bus Suggestions »

Not very long ago, I stumbled across the story of King Brothers Bus Service. I get the basic picture of their financial dealings, but what were they (their fleet and services) like? Any particular experiences from people who lived in the area/s they served? Some additional questions which I have pondered upon:
  • What was the business like prior to the brothers' takeover?
  • What happened to their fleet? I know one of their undelivered Agoraline CB60s serves with Carbridge in Perth and a few of their re-bodied Orana O305s run as charter or party buses in Perth, but what about the rest of the undelivered, but completed models?
  • What happened after the Busways takeover? Were services scaled back? Was service noticeably different?
  • Why exactly did King Bros make... those choices when it came to fleet and presentation? i.e. Why didn't they just get new buses rather than tendering for flimsily rebodied O305s (which for the record, looked much better in original PMC body than the Orana IMHO)? Why did they go for an oddly-coloured pink, blue and yellow theme in their buses?
  • What was their fleet list? From photos in australia.showbus.com (under Busways North Coast), I note some PR100.3 with ABM and Custom bodies as well as their Agoralines, but were they the main new buses?
  • What's their reputation within the bus industry and enthusiasts now? From a quick topic search, I gather the community generally isn't very impressed.
  • What was the story behind the brothers' arrests? I've heard they were on the run across the country, but I'd like a fact-check from here.
That's all my questions for now. I'd also like to see if anybody has any photos of their buses. While their urban white-based livery doesn't stand out as flashy (rather it is quite bland and ordinary), I have a fascination for their coach livery - hard to describe, but it feels very modern for its time.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by tonyp »

https://www.smh.com.au/business/kings-f ... dgqkg.html

Twenty Agoralines went to Canberra, 5 to Baxters, 5 to Fearnes and 5 to Thompsons. The last modern buses in Australia ;)
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by Linto63 »

tonyp wrote: The last modern buses in Australia
For an educated person, you do come up with rubbish sometimes. :roll:
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by tonyp »

Linto63 wrote: Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:47 am For an educated person, you do come up with rubbish sometimes. :roll:
You're perfectly correct as usual. Since then there have been the various Scania N series in Victoria and NSW, the Irisbus in Perth, the Volvo B5LH buses in Victoria, the upcoming Hess Lightram buses in Brisbane, plus a couple of others I may have overlooked. The King Bros seem to have been innovative, if erratic.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by Linto63 »

Oh I see, banging the 'that if a bus has stairs drum' again. Seemingly all the Australian transport agencies and bus operators have had the wool pulled over their eyes for the past 15 or so years, purchasing thousands of 'less modern' buses with Euro 4, 5 and 6 engines rather than these Euro 3s. But what would they know?
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by Merc1107 »

It's clearly an issue that needs rectifying in the industry. Any time a bus starts to get full the operator has to start yelling at their pax to move up the back, to make way for others. Many buses falsely declare they have full loads when they in fact, are nowhere near legal capacity.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by Lt. Commander Data »

Considering it’s worked in Europe for years, yes. Australian operators do have “wool pulled over their eyes”
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by boronia »

Merc1107 wrote: Tue Nov 10, 2020 5:32 pm It's clearly an issue that needs rectifying in the industry. Any time a bus starts to get full the operator has to start yelling at their pax to move up the back, to make way for others. Many buses falsely declare they have full loads when they in fact, are nowhere near legal capacity.
Back in the days when buses had flat floors (albeit with steps at the doors), there was always a reluctance for pax to "move down the back of the bus". This was no doubt partly due to the front door only exit; but it happened in 2PO as well.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by eddy »

People also hang around the doors on a train if the trip is short but really it is looking to the past rather than the future.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by tonyp »

I didn't want this to drift off-topic. I probably should have said the first modern buses in Australia as I think they were the first low-floor standard 12 metre buses. (The Perth DABs of the late 1990s were literally the first of any type I believe.) The interesting thing about this is that, while the whole north coast enterprise might have been a disaster, the Kings were very innovative with this purchase, being only about seven years after Renault had introduced this major design innovation in Europe.

A question at the back of my mind is whether these Kings brothers are the same family as the Kings of Nowra?
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by Linto63 »

tonyp wrote: A question at the back of my mind is whether these Kings brothers are the same family as the Kings of Nowra?
No relation, or at least has never been reported. The King family had operated buses in Kempsey since the 1920s, John King purchased Nowra Coaches in the mid-1980s and there never appeared to be any dealings between the two.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by tonyp »

Linto63 wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 7:49 am No relation, or at least has never been reported. The King family had operated buses in Kempsey since the 1920s, John King purchased Nowra Coaches in the mid-1980s and there never appeared to be any dealings between the two.
Only raised it because Jack King had three other sons. Of course there's no connection implied between what the King Bros did and other members of the family who were victims as much as anybody else.

Incidentally, your assessment of what constitutes a modern bus by the specification of its engine perfectly illustrates the point that the late Geoff Johnson used to make about the bus industry - that it was run by mechanics, not passenger transport people. Apart from the obvious fact that the Agoraline was up to date with the emission standards of the time (2002) and if they were purchased today they would be to 2020 standards, a proper assessment of what is a modern citybus should actually be by the standard of its functionality and fitness for purpose as a commuter vehicle. The propulsion is important for sure, but some people really need to spend more time with their heads out of the engine bay (and driver's seat) and observing inside and, at stops, outside the passenger saloon.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by Linto63 »

tonyp wrote: Only raised it because Jack King had three other sons. Of course there's no connection implied between what the King Bros did and other members of the family who were victims as much as anybody else.
It's possible, but given that to the best of my knowledge, it wasn't ever mentioned before the King Brothers shenanigans were exposed, would appear unlikely. Although understandbly, if there was a connection, would understand why it wasn't mentioned after. Actually John has a brother in the industry, Gerard who owns Kiama Coachlines and Hopkinsons, the former which I vaguely recall that he may have become the proprietor of through marrying George Sampson's daughter.
tonyp wrote: Incidentally, your assessment of what constitutes a modern bus by the specification of its engine perfectly illustrates the point that the late Geoff Johnson used to make about the bus industry...
As you noted, this is way off topic, here is a more appropriate place if you wish to continue with it. You have made that same point numerous times on other threads, endlessly repeating it isn't go to change things.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by captainch »

I STILL remember the head of the govt agency sprouding if only all BUS OPERATERS & At the time WESTBUS-BUSWAYS.-FOREST south trans Were investing in new buses and buying out other small operators. a couple of weeks latter it all collasped and big court cases & banks were in volved and not a PEEP FROM THE THEN TRANSPORT MINISTER who was left with egg on their face..........PLUS A BIG BUS BUILDER & BANK THOUGHT they were the greatest EVEN knocking back reg bus companys wanting new buses, and they all came a GUTTZA! PAYS to stick by your reg bussiness people mean time the body builder went under plus the bank got to gready and is paying for it now!SOME of there pink grab rail buses are still running around our local buses company has 4 .
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by stajourneyman »

My understanding of the Kings/King Bros operation is this ...

Kings were a family operation in Kempsey, NSW that had operated well before the 1990s, possibly back to the 70s or before.

They had an operation of around 20-30 vehicles at the time.

I recall them pouring quite a few new Nambucca bodied vehicles into the fleet in the early 1990s.

After having had a lengthy conversation with a family member quite a few years ago, this is the story I was told ...

The father who managed the operation apparently got sick in the early 1990s and unfortunately died.

There were adopted twin sons in the family, who had been so almost since birth.

They were adults by this time, and agreed to manage the operation.

Apparently, under their management, the operation slowly started running into the ground for unclear reasons.

I do recall at the time that, strangely, all those new Nambucca units were getting sold off with old rubbish being purchased for replacements.

Around this time, the business was, according to the managing brothers, inexplicably heading for bankruptcy.

The twin brothers apparently made an offer to the family to purchase the operation from them for next to nothing, as it was 'better than bankruptcy'.

The family went with the offer, and from that time was no longer connected to the business.

The twin brothers renamed it King Brothers ..and away they went.

Miraculously, they then started re-equipping the fleet, and shortly after, commenced buying out many operators between Raymond Terrace and Tweed Heads.

Most mid to large sized operators succumbed to their take over offers ... such as

Sonter's - Laurieton
Parson;s - Wauchope
Port Macquarie Bus Service
Great Lakes Coaches - Raymond Terrace
Bulahdelah Bus Service - Bulahdelah
plus numerous other operators further up the coast at ...
Macksville
Grafton
Maclean
and elsewhere.

Apparently they just made offers until the owners eventually accepted (as stated to me by one of those offer accepting operators).

On top of that extravagance, they would then immediately set about replacing almost the entire fleet, often replacing vehicles that were only a few years old.

This went on for several years, with, as mentioned above, the then Premier Robert Carr esq. once publicly stating ...'I hold King Brothers up as a light to the industry'.

Shortly after this, it all started to unravel.

Apparently they owed NAB around half a squillion dollars, for which NAB was becoming nervous.

In the end NAB moved on them, and then it was over.

They, King Bros., started madly flogging buses like there was no tomorrow, hence ex King Bros vehicles being found throughout fleets across the nation, even till this day.

They then started buying ex STA Mercedes Benz 0305 buses en masse and started rebodying them at Coachworks using Ansair Orana panels, many of these also still scattered throughout fleets today.

Shortly after, they simply bought ex STA Benz MK2s and put them on the road, still in STA colours.

It turned out , as regularly found on the front page of daily newspapers at the time, that King Bros, had, at one point purchased 100 way over spec Mercedes Benz 0405 buses with air con Customs 510 semi coach bodies.

They then followed that up with another order for 100 buses, except that, this time, using a corrupt manager at Mercedes NSW, they obtained the finance, and blew it on lifestyle instead.

It was said that they owned the two biggest mansions between Newcastle and the Gold Coast.

On top of that, they apparently also purchased a helicopter to fly between their numerous operations.

In the final wash, as spread across the papers, they owed NAB the testacle-withering amount of $225 million dollars.

As is often the case in these types of matters, adminstrators, receivers, liquidators etc look for a quick and simple outcome.

So, rather than them chopping up the operations, and more than likely re selling them back to their previous owners, they took the easy way out and flogged it off, holus bolus, to Busways for just $55 million dollars.

All in all, ... a fine mess, brought on by greed an ruthlessness by the owners followed by carelessness and laziness by the administrators.

NAB was now out of pocket by $175 million in the final wash up.

.... and the innocent victims, the (blood) Kings had their family name smeared, and got virtually nothing out of it all.

The twins were eventually caught up with and did a fair stretch in gaol.

I know not of their current locations or circumstances.

Had NAB had their way, no doubt they would've hung by their necks until dead !

So this is my take on it all.

This did occur 20 - 25 years ago, but it is how I recall it.

Please, by all means, add or subtract as you deem necessary.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by captainch »

YES money was NO OBJECT even though they had none remember the top of the range 4x4 drives used to change over staff at depot runs all had the KING BROS EMBLEM ON MATS IN EACH 4X4 i remember going to a funtion of bus proprietors being told by the head GOVT BODY if only all NSW were operated like KING BROS a short time latter they were left with much egg on their face as with-in a moth the BROS were in goal and the bus companys carved up the bros also transferred a lot of assets into the name of othres THE POOR OLD N A B BANK were left out of pocket and a lot of buses were for sale very cheep often you can travel on a private MERC still with the FAMOUS BRIGHT PINK HAND & GRABB RAILS.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by 1whoknows »

Thats a very good summary fro STA journeyman. I think the only but missing might be that some of the new MB buses were allegedly double financed using fictitious VIN nos. They were also just about to buy Fearne's at Wagga but that fell through when the XXX hit the fan. Lots of new Irisbus/ Ivecos which would have gone there had then to be on sold to others including ACTION in Canberra.

When one of them got out of jail he allegedly tried a similar thing over in WA, using a similar but linguistically different name, but got sprung much earlier on by alert finance people. Allegedly this involved not only a bus company but getting financing for farm purchases which did not proceed beyond the deposit.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by VIKing »

King Bros actually purchased a Cessna Citation jet which was painted in the corporate livery. When the operation folded it was actually sold to another northern NSW bus and coach operator who established a viable business with it, doing work such as very short notice trips to fly aircraft parts around Australia for QANTAS.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by Bus Suggestions »

Thanks for all the information guys, really enjoyed seeing all the new information (enjoyed the information itself, not so much). Special thanks to stajourneyman for the timeline of events!
stajourneyman wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 2:31 pm I recall them pouring quite a few new Nambucca bodied vehicles into the fleet in the early 1990s.
What chassis were they built on, and what ended up happening with Nambucca? Can't find much info on them as a bus bodying company, closest I found was Nambucca Valley Council, coincidentally enough just north of Kempsey.
stajourneyman wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 2:31 pm Apparently, under their management, the operation slowly started running into the ground for unclear reasons.

I do recall at the time that, strangely, all those new Nambucca units were getting sold off with old rubbish being purchased for replacements.
Well, it seems the Brothers couldn't save the company from such inexplicable bankruptcy, now could they? What ended up happening to the Nambucca fleet? Are any known to still survive today?
stajourneyman wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 2:31 pm On top of that extravagance, they would then immediately set about replacing almost the entire fleet, often replacing vehicles that were only a few years old.

This went on for several years, with, as mentioned above, the then Premier Robert Carr esq. once publicly stating ...'I hold King Brothers up as a light to the industry'.
What a nightmare fleet management and replacement scheme, I don't see how people weren't exactly suspicious of this... At least it put the state government of the time in their place, supporting an already obviously scam business. IIRC from an article I read, the Bus and Coach Association stated that they disapproved of the King Brothers and tried to convince the government that they were obviously not the 'real deal'...
stajourneyman wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 2:31 pm They then started buying ex STA Mercedes Benz 0305 buses en masse and started rebodying them at Coachworks using Ansair Orana panels, many of these also still scattered throughout fleets today.
Honestly, what a waste of their time and money re-bodying them. The examples I've seen in and around Perth all look shoddy and well past withdrawal date. A pure Mk II model on the other hand may look well past withdrawal date as well, but look much more sturdy and well-built.
stajourneyman wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 2:31 pm It turned out , as regularly found on the front page of daily newspapers at the time, that King Bros, had, at one point purchased 100 way over spec Mercedes Benz 0405 buses with air con Customs 510 semi coach bodies.
I'd say that speaks a lot of their management, although well succeeded with newer models like the B7R were available, they went with luxurious body on top of old and outdated chassis. Would've been interesting to see these, I'd say.
stajourneyman wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 2:31 pm In the final wash, as spread across the papers, they owed NAB the testacle-withering amount of $225 million dollars.
Personally, I think that would wither more than a sensible person's testicles.
VIKing wrote: Tue Dec 01, 2020 9:17 pm King Bros actually purchased a Cessna Citation jet which was painted in the corporate livery. When the operation folded it was actually sold to another northern NSW bus and coach operator who established a viable business with it, doing work such as very short notice trips to fly aircraft parts around Australia for QANTAS.
Whatever ended up happening to that jet? Who/where is it flying now?
I think NAB made their checkmate too late, should've done it at least 18 months before they eventually did. I do feel sorry for the blood-born Kings, with no true legacy to live on now.
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by VIKing »

Brad Edwards form Armidale had the Citation after the Kings collapse, that was a long time ago now - just looking at the CASA aircraft register and it doesn't look like any Citations currently licensed in Australia ?
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by Bus Suggestions »

Edwards Aviation (started by aforementioned Brad) currently lists a Citation VII (listed by model designation Cessna 650, VH-LYM, first registered '08) and a Citation CJ (listed by model designation Cessna 525, VH-KXL, first registered '97). Beyond that I can't find any information regarding previous owners etc, however I think most likely KXL would be ex-King Brothers, anyone able to provide more info?
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Re: What happened to King Brothers?

Post by 1whoknows »

The Nambuccas were on Mercedes chassis though not the mainstream models. They were sold off all over the place and would all be withdrawn by now being 25+. Its important to remember that all the overspecced 0405s etc were only possible due to the dodgy nature of their financing. The rebodied 0305s are a trouble as they were done after 1992 when chassis rebodying became a no no in NSW. I have always considered them to be a 77-78 body with a mid 90s rebuild but somehow ($$?) they got rebirthed as 90s models. This has at least been a bonus for their subsequent owners though you wonder how they are going with some 40 yo+ mechanicals. Nambucca River Engineering had a change of ownership around 25 years ago and is still in business today as Express. Two of their regular customers have been McHarry in Victoria and Red Bus in NSW and they also sell to many small bus school operators, having quite a good rapport with that sector.
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