Tuesday 17 October 2017

Yates faces battle to save home as empire collapses

'My future is in AIB's hands now'

Ailish O'Hora and Aideen Sheehan

BOOKMAKER Ivan Yates last night admitted he faces a major battle to save his family home and farm after the sudden collapse of his business empire.

Celtic Bookmakers went into receivership yesterday with €6m in debts, 237 jobs under threat and the former high-flying Fine Gael minister personally owing more than €5m.

The flamboyant broadcaster guaranteed the debt and put up his family home and his half of a 160-acre farm as collateral.

Last night, an emotional Mr Yates told the Irish Independent of his sense of "personal failure" and revealed how even his mobile phone had already been cut off.

And he said everything was up for grabs including his €50,000 a year ministerial pension and his estimated €100,000 a year salary from radio station Newstalk.

Nationalised AIB could now take control of the home and half of the family's farm outside Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, if he fails to come up with a repayment plan that satisfies the bank.

The 160-acre farm is valued at just under €2m -- leaving a shortfall of €3m owed to the bank even if the estate were sold. It is thought a home owned by Mr Yates's mother Mary (78) is safe.

Mr Yates said he approached AIB and triggered the receivership process after realising the business was no longer viable.

"I take full responsibility -- there's no hiding place for me," he said. "I made all the big decisions, including the plans to expand in 2006 and 2007."

Speaking after Celtic, started by he and his wife Deirdre, went into receivership, he said his creditors had the power to take an attachment order against all earnings which could leave him with as little as €230 a week under bankruptcy proceedings.

He admitted he was now at the mercy of Allied Irish Banks.

The collapse of Celtic Bookmakers, which is now being run by accountant Neil Hughes on behalf of the bank, could also result in the loss of up to 237 jobs in 45 shops around the country. However, receiver Mr Hughes will now try and sell off as many shops as possible with the proceeds going to repay the debt.

Blunt

A subdued but characteristically blunt Mr Yates (51) said the collapse of Celtic was purely a trading problem but he accepted full responsibility for the failure.

He added that the €6m in debt racked up by the firm, including €200,000 owed to the Revenue, was used to buy businesses during 2006 and 2008.

The company swung from profits of €4m at its peak in 2007 to losses of €1.5m.

Celtic Bookmakers was worth about €30m in 2007.

But Mr Yates said he could see the writing was on the wall at the time of the builders' holidays in August 2007.

"Guys that were traditionally putting on bets of €20 were now putting on €2 instead."

Although the company went on an aggressive cost cutting exercise -- reducing costs from €17m to under €12m by closing shops and introducing redundancies -- it was too late.

Negotiations to sell the business to UK giant William Hill in 2008 failed when plans to increase the betting levy from 1pc to 2pc in the Emergency Budget were announced.

It is understood Mr Yates could have got €12m for Celtic Bookmakers at the time if that deal had been successful.

He has ruled out a return to politics and will be back to present his breakfast programme on Newstalk on January 17.

Irish Independent

Also in Business