Champion swimmer Michael Klim has won a $152,000 payout after being suddenly fired from the skin care company he founded.
Klim, 45, sued Milk & Co in Federal Court, demanding unpaid salary, annual and long-service leave and three months’ notice.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist started the company in 2006, branding products for men with his name and for women products like Milk – his last name spelled backwards.
He sold the company to a consortium of Chinese businessmen in 2017 and was appointed general manager at an annual salary of $200,000.
However, Klim was abruptly fired on February 26, 2021 – which the lawsuit said caused him “shock, fear and humiliation”.
Olympic swimmer Michael Klim (pictured with girlfriend Michelle Owen) has won his $152,000 lawsuit against his skincare company after being unceremoniously fired
Klim, 45, sued Milk & Co in federal court, demanding unpaid salary, annual and extended service leave and three months’ notice
Klim was diagnosed in 2020 with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a rare autoimmune disease of the arms and legs, which has prevented him from leaving Bali, where he has lived for many years.
He has since unsuccessfully attempted to recover $152,050.76 in entitlements, including $16,859.85 in salary, $31,801.78 in annual leave, $37,980.33 in extended service leave, and $50,000 for three months’ notice.
But less than four weeks after the breach of contract was filed on March 16, the case was dropped through a notice to the court.
His lawyer John Gdanski confirmed to Daily Mail Australia that Klim was paid what he demanded in the lawsuit.
The claim revealed that Klim’s contract paid him back up to $30,000 a year to commute between Australia and Bali.
Unrelated court documents revealed that the Chinese buyers acquired the company as part of a plan to expand their businesses into Asia.
Chinese customers are big buyers of Australian health products, which many believe are the highest quality on the market.
The claim revealed that Klim’s contract paid him up to $30,000 a year to commute between Australia and Bali (pictured there with Ms. Owen)
Klim started the company in 2006, branding men’s products with his name (pictured) and women’s products as Milk – his last name spelled backwards
Women’s products were branded Milk, which is the name spelled backwards
However, the company fell apart within a few years and the website is no longer working and the social media profiles have not been updated since last year.
Instead, there are comments from frustrated customers wondering why the company’s products were always out of stock and no one ever responded.
A rare reply to an Instagram comment last February blamed Covid outbreaks for product unavailability.
“We have to postpone our production from 2020. We are now aiming to launch an enhanced baby line in late 2022/early 2023, including baby bath wash, baby shampoo and conditioner, baby moisturizer and baby recovery cream,” it wrote.
Company documents list Yan Zeng as the sole director since 2019, and Mengyao Ling, Jie Cai, Xin He and Hai Zhang as previous directors.
A holding company called Aubrands Pty Ltd was formed weeks before the takeover to buy Milk as a subsidiary.
Climb into his office in a promotional photo while still with the company
Social media ads for Klim’s company used him as a main marketing tool
Milk’s social media profiles haven’t been updated since last year and are full of comments from frustrated customers wondering why the company’s products were always out of stock and no one ever responded to them
Yan Zeng was the sole director since its establishment, and the shares are mainly owned by corporate entities that he controls.
Former shareholders include former directors of Milk & Co Pty Ltd.
Other court documents detailed legal and financial disputes between the former directors, which led to some of them being ousted.
Aubrands was also sued by the Wizard Pharmacy chain in Perth in 2020 and Tracktion Sales & Marketing in Melbourne in 2018.
The father-of-three revealed last year that his mobility was so impaired by CIDP that he could no longer leave Bali and make trips to Australia, as he previously did several times a year for both work and treatment.
“I have shifted my focus to the swimming academy here in Bali and… we are running a number of camps and clinics,” he said in a podcast last October.
“From that point of view, I kind of simplified my lifestyle. I mean, I used to make 20 round trips a year to Australia for work and whatever.
“But for now it’s just physically… physically impossible actually because (for) myself it’s not easy to get around.”
Klim was also diagnosed in 2021 with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a rare autoimmune disease of the arms and legs
Klim last year presented his departure from his company as voluntary and related to his health, rather than being suddenly fired by the new owners
Klim promotes the company’s products by marketing his image as an Olympic swimmer
At the time, Klim presented his departure from his company as voluntary and related to his health, rather than being suddenly fired by the new owners.
“Look, it’s definitely put a strain on our finances and security because there’s a level of investment for me,” he said.
‘I have distanced myself from my role at Milk & Co because of the physical strain, flying back and forth and the stress.
‘I was very hands-on with sales and marketing. (But) unless I could give myself one hundred percent, I didn’t want to do it.
“So there’s definitely some things I’ve done over the last 13 years that I’ve had to cut back a lot for and that’s also a level of income.”