Aged-care mogul facing legal action lists Toorak mansion, leaves for Greece

A co-owner of Epping Gardens aged care home, which is at the centre of several investigations and a major class action over the deaths of 38 residents from COVID-19, has gone to Greece and is unable to say when he will return.

Multimillionaire Peter Arvanitis and his wife, Areti, left Melbourne about two weeks before Christmas after receiving a travel exemption from the Australian Department of Home Affairs to attend to "essential business'' in Athens.

Peter Arvanitis and his wife, Areti.Credit:Instagram

"[I am] unsure of my return date, depending on business progress here and of course requirements of international travellers returning home. The plan is to be home sooner rather than later," Mr Arvanitis told The Sunday Age.

He has also recently listed his trophy home in Toorak for off-market sale.

The Irving Road mansion is registered in the name of his Maserati-driving wife, and could fetch up to $40 million.

Several grieving families who lost elderly relatives in the Epping Gardens outbreak have demanded that the care-home mogul return to Australia to "face the music".

Mr Arvanitis and business partner Tony Antonopoulos each own a 50 per cent stake in Heritage Care Pty Ltd, which has a portfolio of 10 aged care homes in Sydney and Melbourne, including the embattled Epping Gardens facility.

Areti Arvanitis with her Maserati, and Epping Gardens co-owner Tony Antonopoulos and his wife, Stacey.Credit:

When Mr Arvanitis departed for Greece, he chose not to inform anyone at Heritage Care of his travel plans. Even Heritage Care chief executive Greg Reeve was unaware Mr Arvanitis had left the country.

"I did not inform Greg Reeve as my personal business has nothing to do with Heritage Care. I do not have an executive or board role in Heritage Care, and my investment is passive. My private business has nothing to do with any employee of Heritage Care," Mr Arvanitis said.

The Arvanitises’ opulent home was featured in Vogue Living.Credit:Instagram

He resigned as a director of Heritage Care in September, when media attention on his vast wealth and opulent lifestyle became a “distraction to the good work of the staff”.

Of the private listing of his mansion, Mr Arvanitis said: "Although I am not actively looking to sell, everything has a price and only for a significant premium.

"If I was to sell, I have several properties in Toorak and interstate I could move into. My history in real estate demonstrates this as I have sold over 60 properties in the last five years."

The property featured in the March edition of Vogue Living, which gushed about the "gluttonous trappings of wealth within a classical framework".

The couple’s Toorak residence.Credit:Instagram

Ms Arvanitis' bedroom was described as a "first-floor boudoir that is off-the-charts big, fitted with banks of Gucci-filled cabinets and furnished with one-of-a-kind art and objects commissioned by the Italian fashion house in esteem of her patronage".

Mr Arvanitis, who joined Heritage Care in January 2019, was the founder and one-time director of listed for-profit nursing home giant Estia. He sold his shareholding in 2016 for $55 million and quit the company after it hit trouble. In 2018, he also sold a shopping centre and a thoroughbred horse breeding farm, netting another $21 million.

"My property business history is I acquire, construct and sell or reposition," he said.

Mr Arvanitis' extended stay in Greece has incensed many victims of Epping Gardens, where 103 residents tested positive to COVID-19 and 86 staff also became infected, amid mounting evidence of inadequate staffing and poor care at the facility.

Sam Agnello, who is lead plaintiff in a class action involving Heritage Care, said he had never received any offer of condolences or an apology from the owners of the company, or its management team.

Mr Agnello's mother, Carmela, 92, contracted COVID-19 at Epping Gardens in July and died within three days of being admitted to hospital.

"[Mr Arvanitis] has never taken any responsibility or shown any compassion. We want him to come back to Melbourne and face up to the families who have been destroyed by this," Mr Agnello said.

The deadly outbreak at Epping Gardens remains under investigation by WorkSafe and the State Coroner, who is being assisted by police detectives. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner is also assessing Epping Gardens' fitness to hold accreditation as an aged care facility.

Last week, an independent review by Professor Lyn Gilbert and Adjunct Professor Alan Lilly found that conditions at Epping Gardens and St Basil's Homes for the Aged in Fawkner had deteriorated to an appalling level during the crisis.

“These stark numbers do not begin to convey the trauma and grief suffered by all residents, whether or not they developed COVID-19, and the enormous impact on families,” the review found.

Both facilities were found to have been inadequately prepared for emergencies and lacking in infection prevention and control procedures, while a surge workforce sent in to help had never worked in aged care and was "unsure what to do".

In September, The Age revealed that Epping Gardens had slashed staffing at the beginning of Victoria’s second COVID-19 wave and had allegedly instructed some workers to delay getting tested, or keep working while awaiting results.

Internal emails revealed “instructions by management” to cut carers' shifts in the weeks before coronavirus swept through the home. At one point, just six carers were rostered on to care for 80 vulnerable residents.

Grieving families and former staff have launched civil action against Heritage Care, alleging the company failed its duty of care.

At the time, Carbone Lawyers managing partner Tony Carbone said: "These breaches are so grave that no responsible management team could have allowed them to happen, particularly considering the vulnerability of the residents."

He said cutting hours for carers during a pandemic was "gross mismanagement and negligence" and needed to be thoroughly investigated.

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