Bunnings push to use SA family’s name

by | Sep 6, 2021

Dontas Family

Image source: www.theaustralian.com.au

Bunnings may be considering using the name of Adelaide’s well-known Dontas family, as part of a major expansion of a new brand across Australia and New Zealand, according to a recent Herald Sun report.

Bennett + Co Lawyer, Dave Stewart, revealed in a recent statement that, “This (use of the Dontas name) is contrary to the wishes of a significant part of the family who had a historical part in establishing the iconic South Australian business over 70 years ago.”

The Dontas family not only has interests in hardware but also the racing industries and says plans by Wesfarmers-owned Bunnings to use its name “has serious implications for us, our children and future generations,” according to the report.

Mark Dontas, Troy Dontas and Supercars driver, Craig Dontas have historic links to the Adelaide Tools business which is now part of Bunnings, with their grandfather, Sam Dontas, founding Western Auto and Electrical Service in 1936. The name was subsequently changed to Electric Power Tool Services, according to the report.

Following Sam’s death in 1991, their aunt, Marissa Peach (nee Dontas), and husband Robert took control of the business in 1996, with the Adelaide Tools brand name launched later on in 2012, according to the Herald Sun report.

In May last year, Bunnings completed its acquisition of Adelaide Tools from the Peach family and, Marissa and Rob’s son, Adam Peach, remains involved with the business.

In June, Bunnings Chief Executive Michael Schneider unveiled the ambitious growth plans for Adelaide Tools. With six retail stores, the Oaklands Mower Centre and an online store, which is strong in the trade supplier market – the business will be rebranded and expanded to as many as 75 outlets across Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Schneider did not reveal the new name, but a search of the IP register shows Bunnings’ trademark applications for ‘Dontas’, ‘Dontas Tools’, ‘Dontas Workgear’ and a Dontas logo, ‘Onya Tools’, ‘Project Tools’ and ‘Benchmark Tools, according to the Herald Sun report.

“Bunnings purchased the business named ‘Adelaide Tools’ but Troy Dontas said he does not feel, “they have the right to use our family name nor should it have been part of any transaction. We don’t think Bunnings knew what they were buying.”

Bunnings’ Commercial Chief Operation Officer, Ben McIntosh, said in the report that the new names were being considered to help the company’s growth outside South Australia.

“One of the names is Dontas which recognises Adelaide Tools’ Founder, Sam Dontas, and the company’s proud 70-year history. We are disappointed that some members of the family are not supportive of this option. However, Dontas is just one of a number of names we are considering,” Mr McIntosh said in the report.

Mark and Troy separately own three Stihl dealerships in South Australia, which they say is “perpetuating the association” of their family name with trade and retail customers.

Mark said the situation was “unacceptable”.

“Bunnings do not sell Stihl products, but it will be perceived that we have a connection to our opposition by way of our family name. Our family name is rare, so it is only natural these perceptions will happen. Bunnings seem determined to profit from our family name,” Mark said.

Well-known in the Supercars racing scene, Craig Dontas has built a sports commercial business and carries endorsements by conflicting brands such as Total Tools, Bosch Tools, and further tool trade-connected brands.

“It does not help anyone for Bunnings to be selling under the ‘Dontas’ name while I am an ambassador for Total Tools. This will create a lot of confusion. It has already been flagged as a conflict, and I am set to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in endorsements,” Craig said in the report.

In an exchange of lawyers’ letters this week, the Dontas brothers learned Bunnings regarded the purchase of Adelaide Tools entitled them to use the “Dontas” name.

“Bunnings’ purchase of Adelaide Tools would have included Adelaide Tools’ goodwill. But Adelaide Tools was never known as ‘Dontas Tools’. Either the Peaches or Bunnings seem to have made a mistake in thinking that the purchase of the goodwill included acquiring the right to use the surname of the founder of the business.”

“The Dontas brothers do not think Bunnings started down this path deliberately intending to profit from the industry-famous Dontas name, but they think Bunnings have taken things a step too far,” Mr Stewart said in the report.