Friday 22 September 2017

Impresario loses nearly €2m trying to keep failed venues open

Concert organiser John Reynolds. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Concert organiser John Reynolds. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Revellers arriving at the entrance to Electric Picnic in Stradbally, Co Laois

Cormac McQuinn and Edel Kennedy

TWO of the country's leading music venues received loans worth almost €2m from the man behind the Electric Picnic festival in an attempt to keep them open, the Irish Independent can reveal.

The shutters came down on trendy Dublin nightspots Tripod and Crawdaddy earlier this month despite owner John Reynolds pouring huge sums of his own cash into the failed clubs over the last decade.

At one point Mr Reynolds, a nephew of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, was owed more than €1.9m by the company that operated the clubs -- Pod Entertainment Ltd.

The vast amounts the Porsche-driving impresario plunged into the venture came as he pursued an ambitious redevelopment of the venues on Dublin's Harcourt Street.

The 1,300 capacity Tripod has hosted a diverse mix of acts over the last six years, from dance group Orbital to former Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland as well as homegrown acts including Christy Moore.

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The consortium that runs nearby pub Flannery's is now reportedly in negotiations with Mr Reynolds to take over the venue, which also housed the smaller Crawdaddy.

It is thought the former indie and dance music venues will be promoted as rivals to the massively successful Copper Face Jacks nightclub.

Mr Reynolds (46) has run nightclubs on the site since 1993, beginning with Pod -- a popular hang-out for celebrities such as Bono and Naomi Campbell.

The colourful concert promoter is the brain behind the Electric Picnic festival and has also organised successful concerts by Prince and Leonard Cohen in recent years.

But the media-shy businessman has been in the spotlight for other reasons in recent years.

His black Porsche was impounded in 2009 for non-payment of car tax ,while one of his companies was sued the previous year by the Irish Music Rights Organisation for allegedly unpaid royalties in a case later settled out of court.

Mr Reynolds provided loans to the Pod Entertainment for at least a decade, with the 2002 accounts stating: "The Company depends on the support of the directors to finance its operations."

Financial records from the following year outline the redevelopment plans which were to expand the complex into a "2,000 capacity live music venue, a 500-capacity nightclub, a 400-capacity bar and also a smaller 300-capacity live music venue". The plans, which meant that the various venues had to close for months on end, were due for completion in March 2005 though Tripod would not open until November 2006.

Meanwhile, in 2004 Mr Reynolds secured a new AIB mortgage on the site and a personal guarantee to the bank stood at €500,000 by March 2007. Also, in 2007, he took out a second mortgage on his apartment in Milltown, south Dublin, with Bank of Scotland. In 2008, Pod Entertainment's accounts show that he was owed as much as €1,927,405 during the previous financial year.

The company's most recent filings show that Mr Reynolds was owed €650,000 at the end of March 2009. Accounts for the last two years are not yet available.

The auditors note that the company had a "deficiency of assets amounting to €1,496,752" and that it was "dependent upon the support of its bank and its creditors to meet its short term commitments and working capital requirements".

The same year, one of Mr Reynold's other companies, Pod Concerts -- which previously ran Electric Picnic -- went into liquidation, owing him €1m and another €800,000 to the Revenue. Another investment went sour when the company that ran the Bellinter House hotel in Co Meath, which he bought in 2004 along with restaurateur Jay Bourke, went into liquidation in 2010.

Asked yesterday about the closure of his Harcourt Street night clubs, Mr Reynolds replied: "I can't talk right now," and walked off. He did not respond directly to questions that were subsequently sent to him.

Electric Picnic, which Mr Reynolds co-owns with MCD-backed Festival Republic will still go ahead in Stradbally, Co Laois, later this year as will another Pod-organised event, Forbidden Fruit in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, in June.

Irish Independent

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