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Sunday 11 December 2016

Sean Quinn vows: We’ll be back and I won’t go hungry

Published 19/01/2012 | 05:00

BANKRUPT tycoon Sean Quinn says he is "not out" of the business world, insisting: "I’m not worried. I won’t go hungry."

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And Mr Quinn said he would still be able to help his family set up new ventures – despite being banned from acting as a company director for up to 12 years.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Irish Independent, a defiant Mr Quinn also said he expected to stay in his sizeable family home in Co Cavan, which is owned by his five children.

Mr Quinn (63) accepted sole responsibility for a disastrous gamble on Anglo Irish Bank that resulted in losses of €3bn – admitting that his investment style was “greedy”.

“It was me that done it. I’m blaming nobody else, not company directors or family, it was me and me alone,” he said. Ireland’s one-time richest man was this week declared bankrupt in a Dublin court, and famously claimed in November that he had just €11,000 in the bank.

In his first detailed interview since his empire collapsed, Mr Quinn spoke about his family, his relationship with Anglo Irish Bank and his hopes for a future comeback. Mr Quinn also claimed for the first time that former Anglo boss David Drumm told him that he was taking security against Mr Quinn's €2.8bn loans for "cosmetic reasons" alone.

He said that he, therefore, believed personal guarantees and claims over the Quinn Group's shares would never be enforced.

He says now that he would have sold down his stake in Anglo in September 2007 at a loss of €750m had the bank's bosses asked him to. It didn't happen because Anglo didn't ask and he didn't offer.

Over the following months, Mr Quinn said it was "made very clear" that any sale by him would have adversely affected the bank.

"It was about the green jersey, we have to work together," he says. "We didn't want to get into any antagonism."

He defended the Quinn Group's practice of paying personal expenses for him and his family directly, rather than simply paying them higher salaries.

The Quinn children became co-owners of the Quinn Group in 2002, when it was worth about €5bn. Their shares in the group have since been seized by Anglo and they are each on the hook for personal guarantees of more than €70m.

Mr Quinn said he "expects" the children to be freed of those personal guarantees in an upcoming court case -- which would enable them to start new businesses and keep hold of assets, including the impressive Quinn home. The children are also challenging Anglo's right to seize the Quinn Group.

The Quinn children were asked for personal guarantees in 2008 because they were the ones who "owned the company" after their parents transferred it to them for tax reasons in 2002.

"I was told the guarantee (from the children) would never be called in," says Mr Quinn, adding that he "foolishly" believed this. He does not have the assurances in writing.

As for his own future, he's facing having to survive on a stipend to cover "reasonable living expenses" for the next 12 years at least, and he'll have to give up everything of value he owns.

But he appears more concerned for the future of the Quinn Group, describing the "destruction" of the empire since Anglo installed a share receiver at the businesses.

He admitted he would not help now, even if called upon. "It's gone too far, it's not recoverable, Mr Quinn says.

He insisted he had advised people to co-operate with the new owners as recently as last week, despite the deterioration of relations between himself and Anglo.

Mr Quinn also predicted that Anglo "wouldn't get a penny back" from its seizure of the group because so much value was ceded to bondholders, and the company's performance has deteriorated.

The Quinn Group pared back its estimates for 2011 earnings from €115m to €85m, citing the deteriorating economic environment. In its last accounts, Quinn Group chairman Pat O'Neill said the conglomerate's key divisions "hold strong positions in their respective markets".

"With the companies' dedicated and ambitious management and staff, they are well positioned to resume growth."

Irish Independent

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