Sean Quinn once Ireland’s richest man with a €4bn fortune is declared bankrupt
Published 11/11/2011 | 12:01
SEAN Quinn, once Ireland’s richest man, was declared bankrupt in a Belfast court today. He owes €2.8bn to Anglo Irish Bank and while he said he is strenuously disputing the amount, he is unable to pay loans which are now due.
Mr Quinn was reputedly worth €4.72bn at the height of his business success.
The entrepreneur's multibillion empire collapsed over the last two years on the back of massive and secret stock market gambles on the share price of the now nationalised rogue lender.
Mr Quinn, whose success was a rags-to-riches story having been built on a £100 loan, said he had done everything he could to avoid the drastic step.
In a statement he said that the application for bankruptcy was made in Northern Ireland because he was “born, reared and worked all my life in County Fermanagh”.
However, it has previously been speculated that Mr Quinn would declare himself bankrupt in Northern Ireland or Britain as he may only have to wait one year, rather than 12 years in Ireland, before he can go back into business.
Mr Quinn said he had worked tirelessly to find a solution to problems which arose from his ill-fated Anglo investments.
He said while he is certainly not without blame, he "like thousands of others in Ireland, incorrectly relied upon the persons who guided Anglo and wrongfully sought to portray a 'blue chip' Irish banking stock".
Claiming that he and his family - wife Patricia and five children - had been subjected to "relentless negative media coverage over the past three years" he said that he had been portrayed as a reckless gambler who bet on a bank.
He said he was not seeking any favours, but asked that the media report the impartial facts rather "than glamorising false accusations and inaccurate leaks emanating from Anglo sources".
Mr Quinn and his family have been at war with Anglo Irish Bank over the repayment of €2.8bn he owes them.
Last April the bank took control of Quinn's multi-million euro business empire and appointed a receiver over the shares held by the Quinn family in the Quinn group.
Contracts for difference -- or CFDs -- allowed Quinn to bet on Anglo Irish Bank shares without buying them outright. They didn't have to be disclosed and were tax-free. The returns were big if he got the bet right but expensive if he got it wrong. Then, the broker would make the dreaded margin call when more funds would have to be put up. Quinn bet that Anglo's shares would rise and got it wrong, allegedly unbeknown to his children.
He initially funded his bets with €750m in loans from Quinn Group and family companies. But when the financial markets plunged into chaos in mid-2007 and Anglo's shares started falling, he began running out of cash.
Market rumours of Quinn's secret CFD stake didn't help, encouraging hedge fund bets that drove Anglo's share price down.
This disastrous confluence prompted Anglo's then chief executive David Drumm and Sean FitzPatrick to find out what Quinn was playing at at a meeting in the Ardoyne Hotel, where Quinn revealed his 24 per cent CFD stake.
Mr Quinn, who became a billionaire on the back of a Fermanagh gravel pit, rarely gives interviews.
In a defiant defence of his businesses and investments, Mr Quinn launched a fierce attack on Anglo, rebranded as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation and to be wound down, and its current bosses.
He claimed to have created 5,000 jobs in Ireland at one stage and paid €1 billion in tax.
Mr Quinn insisted that he did not bring his empire down through the complex share trades which went belly up.
He also rejected claims that his business group, started in 1973, did not collapse.
Mr Quinn has always maintained that he would have been able to service multibillion debts if he was allowed to retain control of all divisions.
He was forced to relinquish control of the money-making Quinn Insurance wing in early 2010 after the Financial Regulator in Ireland warned its cash reserves had fallen below required industry standards.
"Anglo is now tirelessly working with its PR advisers to tell a different story of how I supposedly brought down the Quinn Group. This is wrong," he said.
"Anglo's actions, in taking control of businesses, have led to the present situation.
"The Quinn Group, prior to Anglo's takeover, was a very profitable business, which was paying all the interest on 100pc of its debts, as well as having sufficient surpluses to develop further."