THE motor car empire of one of the country's best-known businessmen has been dismantled and sold off in a matter of hours under the auctioneer's hammer.
After more than half a century in business, every car, van, tool and display case from 'Apprentice' star Bill Cullen's two Renault dealerships was broken down into 200 separate lots and sold to the highest bidder.
Around 300 people turned up for the sale, with auctioneer Ricky Wilson reminding them that everything had to go.
Many of the buyers at the garages, who would have been familiar to Cullen as bosses from rival garages, snapped up a dozen cars apiece.
Wilson Auctioneers were under instructions from receivers Kavanagh Fennell after Ulster Bank took control of Cullen's Glencullen Holdings, which operated Citygate Motors Liffey Valley and Citygate Motors Airside – Cullen's two remaining Renault dealerships.
The two garages in Dublin were the rump of what was once a nationwide network of Renault dealers operated by Cullen. But after 55 years, the last vestiges of his business were being sold off.
Just last week, Cullen agreed to a judgment against him in the Commercial Court after a judge heard he failed to make repayments since November last year. He has promised to sell property to help pay back the €8.2m in loans owed to Danske Bank.
Separately, Ulster Bank is owed an estimated €12m. Cullen himself is one of Glencullen's biggest creditors and is owed €19.5m.
However, he continues to retain control of the Muckross Park Hotel Cloisters Spa in Killarney, which he co-owns with his partner, Jackie Lavin.
Denise Kelly, from Ratoath, Co Meath, was the first buyer of the day and by her reckoning she got a good deal. "We're buying a car for my daughter's 21st. It was a bargain."
Retired engineer David O'Rourke and his wife Maura bought a five-door Megane for €14,250.
"I said we're not spending more than €16,000, you could lose the run of yourself in a place like this," Maura said.
The couple were replacing a 14-year-old 'family heirloom', which will go to their daughter, who is about to return from Africa, where she worked with refugees.