Sunday 13 November 2011

Fall of richest man in Ireland as Quinn is declared bankrupt


TROUBLED tycoon Sean Quinn, once Ireland’s richest man, was declared bankrupt yesterday at the High Court in Belfast. The 64-year-old businessman was granted a voluntary adjudication over an alleged E2.8bn debt owed to Anglo Irish Bank. It is believed to be one of the biggest bankruptcy orders of its kind ever made in either the United Kingdom or Ireland. Mr Quinn said he brought the application north of the border because he was born, reared and worked all his life in Co Fermanagh. But by declaring himself bankrupt in Northern Ireland it also means he only has to wait a year before going back into business – rather than 12 years in the Republic. He claimed to have been left with no alternative but to take the “drastic decision” over problems which stemmed from “ill-fated investments in Anglo”. The former billionaire was stripped of control of his manufacturing and insurance business empire in April. He had been plunged into financial trouble by purchasing bank shares which then became worthless. As a consequence, receivers were installed and he and his family lost any role in the management of the Quinn Group. Mr Quinn accepts that he owes around E194m to Anglo for property loans which he cannot repay. But the rest of the alleged debt, which relates to Contracts for Difference (CFDs) used to buy bank shares, is disputed. The Quinn family are currently suing Anglo, claiming the CFDs were tainted with illegality. Mr Quinn applied for voluntary bankruptcy through his lawyer and licensed insolvency practitioner, John Gordon of Napier and Sons. The order was granted during a brief hearing before a Master at the High Court in Belfast. Mr Quinn said in a statement: “I have done absolutely everything in my power to avoid taking this drastic decision. The vast majority of debt that Anglo maintains is owed is strenuously disputed. I cannot, however, now pay those loans which are due.” He added: “Following Anglo taking control of the Quinn Group of companies, which I and a loyal team spent a lifetime building, I find myself left with no alternative.” The businessman said he had “worked tirelessly” to find a solution to the problems. He claimed: “Anglo, and more recently the Irish Government, are intent on making scapegoats of my family and I.” According to him, the bank has attempted to avoid acknowledging “a lack of corporate responsibility, self-interest and lack of regulation that prevailed at the time”. His allegations are now the subject of High Court proceedings. Mr Quinn accepted: “I am certainly not without blame. I am not in the business of pointing fingers or making excuses. “However, recent history has shown that I, like thousands of others in Ireland, incorrectly relied upon the persons who guided Anglo and who wrongfully sought to portray a ‘blue chip’ Irish banking stock.” He said that he and his team had developed one of the most successful businesses in Irish history, with the group generating more than 5,000 jobs and contributing in excess of E1bn in tax revenues. Mr Quinn rejected any suggestion that he had brought down the empire. He also claimed: “Anglo has supported and promoted an ill-conceived and highly damaging receivership programme which I believe, if it continues on its current road, is destined for certain and catastrophic failure.” The statement added: “My family and I have been subjected to relentless negative media coverage over the past three years. “I have been portrayed as a reckless gambler who bet on a bank. I have never sought publicity, nor have I courted the media. “Sadly this now seems to have worked very much to my disadvantage, especially when compared with the sophisticated and massively expensive publicity campaign operated for, and on behalf of Anglo.