Quinn family 'will cede all its influence with insurer'
Publicity-shy tycoon admits he put firm's profits to 'bad use'
Published 19/01/2011 | 05:00
CAVAN tycoon Sean Quinn yesterday broke his silence on the Quinn Insurance sale and confirmed for the first time that he and his family would be "happy to set aside all financial interest and all influence" in the insurer he founded.
The publicity-shy entrepreneur also admitted he had put Quinn Insurance's profits to "bad use" and said the insurer would thrive once it had removed the "investment risk" associated with his time at the helm.
The comments come as Mr Quinn's camp battles to convince Anglo Irish Bank to revisit pursuing a joint bid for Quinn Insurance Limited (QIL) with the Quinn family.
The family believes the joint approach offers the best hope of preserving 1,500 jobs in QIL and thousands more in the wider Quinn Group, as well as securing repayment of a €2.8bn debt owed by the Quinns to Anglo.
The plan has widespread local and political support, but Anglo is continuing to pursue a joint bid with US insurance giant Liberty Mutual, which the bank believes offers better value to the taxpayer.
The desire of the authorities to "de-Quinn" the insurance group is also believed to have weighed on Anglo's decision not to pursue an offer with the Quinn family.
In correspondence to the Irish Independent, Mr Quinn confirmed for the first time that he and his family were "happy to set aside all financial interest and all influence in QIL" as part of any joint Anglo bid.
It is understood that a joint Quinn/Anglo plan would see QIL owned by the Quinn family for seven years, with all its profits being used towards repaying the €2.8bn owed to Anglo.
The insurance company would then be sold off to pay another chunk off the debt, while a number of the Quinn family's overseas assets would be sold to pay any amounts outstanding.
Mr Quinn yesterday stressed that before its descent into administration last April, QIL had enjoyed "the highest profit margins of any general insurer".
"Unfortunately, as has been well documented, we put the money to bad use and lost more than €3bn in the stock market," he said.
"However that doesn't diminish from the potential of the QIL operations in the future."
Mr Quinn added that the €3bn loss, which was triggered by an ill-fated gamble on Anglo Irish Bank shares, does mean that the insurer needs a "new independent board that will maximise the positives of the company while removing the investment risks associated with my time as chairman".
"I have no doubt that the personnel in QIL would re-engage with a new respected board and would re-emerge to outperform any competitor," he stressed.
The wider Quinn Group is also locked in discussion with its lenders, and some have suggested Mr Quinn could also be frozen out of the conglomerate he spent decades building up.
"I am not the right person to voice an opinion on my importance to the Quinn Group," Mr Quinn said yesterday. "A lot of people have been involved over the years in making this group very successful."
He stressed that the group, which has assets spanning manufacturing, cement, hotels and glass, had enjoyed profit margins that "consistently exceeded those of our competitors".
"My objective today is to ensure that all of the businesses in the group can be sustained so that they can contribute to the next generation and to the areas where they have been established," he added.