Tuesday 27 June 2017

Celtic Tiger restaurateurs hold on to €800,000 home after court approves €12m debt write-off

Pia Bang and Jeff Stokes have escaped bankruptcy

Pia Bang and Jeff Stokes
Pia Bang and Jeff Stokes
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

High profile Celtic Tiger restaurateurs Pia Bang and Jeff Stokes have escaped bankruptcy and held onto their €800,000 home after the High Court approved a personal insolvency arrangement for the couple.

The couple had €12m in debt written off in exchange for a one off payment of €145,000, under the terms of the scheme.

The bulk of the money will go to biggest creditor Dunbar Assets, formerly Zurich Bank, and to Revenue. Other creditors will get just cents in the euro under the scheme.

Under the new insolvency regime brought in after the crash the former owners of the upmarket Unicorn restaurant in Dublin needed the written consent of their secured creditors before the arrangement could be approved, because their debts were greater than €3m.

The arrangement, hammered out by personal insolvency practitioner (PIP) Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton, means the couple can hold on to the family home, in Kilternan, in south Co Dublin, which is valued at around €800,000.

The house was not subject to the scheme of arrangement because a separate mortgage on the property is owed to other lenders. 

The High Court approved debt write-off frees the couple from their non-mortgage debt, which was linked to business and property investments.

The scheme was backed by creditors at a meeting on January 10th and approved by Justice Marie Baker at the High Court.

The bulk of the €12m debt was originally owed by the couple and their once high profile twin sons, Simon and Christian Stokes.

The twins were declared bankrupt back in 2015.

The Stokes family was behind the well-known Unicorn restaurant in the capital, while the brothers operated the exclusive Residence club on St Stephen's Green and other venues.

In 2014, Christian and Simon Stokes, as well as their parents Jeffrey and Pia, consented to a €14.7m judgment being entered against them arising from various loans and guarantees. Dunbar Assets Ireland, formerly Zurich Bank, had claimed it was owed the money under what it described as the "Consolidated Stokes Facility", created following a restructuring in 2011 of various facilities dating from 2007, and from guarantees.

The debt was initially secured against various properties, including the Unicorn Restaurant in Dublin; property on Torquay Road, Foxrock, Dublin; and the leasehold interest in the Residence club, St Stephen's Green, Dublin.

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