News Courts

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Bang goes €5.8m as twins' debt cut - only €9m to go

Published 27/03/2016 | 02:30

Cafe society: Simon and Christian Stokes still owe millions Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Cafe society: Simon and Christian Stokes still owe millions Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Bankrupt brothers Christian and Simon Stokes have managed to reduce the debt owed to their biggest creditor by €5.8m following the sale of a portfolio of prime Dublin properties, including the former premises of the famous Unicorn restaurant.

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Documents filed with the Official Assignee's Office relating to the bankruptcies of the 40-year-old identical twins show that Dunbar Asset Management - formerly Zurich Bank - is now seeking to recover some €9m as opposed to the €14.8m for which it had originally obtained judgment in the High Court in September 2014.

That judgment for €14.825m arose from money Dunbar was owed under what was known as the Consolidated Stokes Facility, a debt instrument which had been created in the process of restructuring various debts owed by the brothers and their parents, Jeff and Pia Stokes, dating back to 2007.

The sum of €2,597,126 of the money recovered from the Stokes brothers came from the sale of the former Merrion Court premises of the famous Unicorn restaurant while another €697,518 was raised with the disposal of 13 Merrion Row. Prior to the crash, the Stokes brothers' parents, Jeff and Pia, had ambitious plans to demolish the two properties with a view to developing a new building encompassing a cookery school, conference rooms, apart-hotel suites and a cabaret club.

A further €863,214 of the Stokes' debt was repaid with the net proceeds of the sale of 16 Hume Street. The prime Georgian office property sold for significantly more than the €570,000 its selling agents, Knight Frank, had been guiding when it came to the market.

In an affidavit filed as part of the Stokes' case, a representative for Dunbar stated that the company anticipated the recovery of a further €1.527m from the future sale of Mazemore, a residential investment property acquired using a €3.36m debt facility in May 2007 by the Stokes family. Additional monies have been recovered through income from rental properties, according to the same affidavit.

Both Christian and Simon Stokes are due before the High Court on April 11 next to provide a full disclosure of their property as the official assignee continues with his efforts to recover and repay the millions of euro they owe their various creditors. The twins - who famously captured the zeitgeist of the last boom with the creation of fashionable Dublin haunts such as Bang Cafe, the Clarendon Inn and Residence on St Stephen's Green - are obliged to attend the statutory sitting according to the official notice relating to their insolvency which was published in the State gazette, Iris Oifigiuil, last Tuesday.

Prior to the crash, the brothers had been at the centre of Dublin's social whirl with their various establishments proving to be a magnet for the capital's political, business and media set. As the economy floundered though, the company behind Bang Cafe was wound up with debts of €2.4m. Worse was to come for the twins with the High Court hearing how they had spent nearly €150,000 of the company's money over an 18-month period pursuing a jet-set lifestyle.

But it was their use of PAYE and PRSI docked from the wages of staff to keep the company behind Residence going as it struggled to turn a profit which proved to be most damaging. Referring to this, Mr Justice Peter Kelly called the twins "delinquent directors", saying they had engaged in "a form of thieving" by using tax money to trade. Both brothers were disqualified from serving as company directors. That period of disqualification expires this month.

Sunday Independent

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