Bank takes Celtic boss to court over €3m loans
CELTIC caretaker manager Neil Lennon owes Bank of Ireland €3m for a loan guarantee he allegedly gave to a building company.
A letter he signed giving the guarantee has been lost -- but the bank says it can produce evidence that the former Celtic and Northern Ireland midfielder did sign it, it was claimed in the Commercial Court.
Bank of Ireland (BoI) is seeking a summary judgment against Mr Lennon under a guarantee allegedly provided by him for the loan to Rocket Developments Ltd, which he was also a director of.
BoI claims Mr Lennon, who was recently appointed caretaker manager of the Glasgow giants after the sacking of Tony Mowbray, signed the guarantee letter while in Ireland on the weekend beginning February 24, 2006.
He had a free weekend because Celtic had been knocked out of the Scottish Cup.
Colm McHugh, a senior business manager at BoI's branch in Dundalk, Co Louth said Mr Lennon had arrived at the airport carrying golf clubs and had signed the guarantee form at its airport branch.
Mr McHugh claims he had advised Mr Lennon the guarantee meant the bank was entitled to call on him personally to repay the loan if Rocket Developments did not clear the debt.
The manager also claims Mr Lennon told him he anticipated planning permission would be obtained by Rocket for about 60 houses on a site in Co Louth; that 50pc of the site would be sold to clear the debt to the bank; and that the rest of the site would either be developed or sold at an expected profit of some €3m.
Mr McHugh said he had commented on such a level of profit and Mr Lennon said he would be satisfied with a lower level.
The proceedings against Mr Lennon, with an address at Queen's Gardens, Glasgow, were admitted to the Commercial Court yesterday by Mr Justice Peter Kelly on the application of Aidan Redmond, for the bank and on consent of counsel for Mr Lennon.
Mr Redmond said it was being contended that Mr Lennon has a credible defence to the claim and had not executed the guarantee. The judge said it was clear the guarantee allegedly executed by Mr Lennon had been lost and the bank could not find it.
The bank was contending it could produce evidence as to the execution of the guarantee, he noted. The judge fixed the summary judgment application for hearing on May 12.
BoI claims Mr Lennon was a director of Rocket Developments Ltd, with registered offices at the Crescent, Dundalk, Co Louth.
It claims it loaned that company some €3m in early 2006 to part fund the proposed purchase of seven acres of zoned residential land at Knockbridge, Dundalk.
It is claimed the loan principal and interest were to be cleared in full within a 12-month period from the sale of serviced sites on the land.
The bank claims Mr Lennon had on February 27, 2006, brought the signed personal guarantee to the BoI branch in Dundalk where it was placed on an official's desk.
It was discovered in mid to late-2006 that the guarantee had been mislaid and extensive searches failed to locate it, the bank says.
Mr Lennon was informed in late 2006 about the guarantee being mislaid but had refused to re-sign a copy of the guarantee, the bank claims.
It alleges it is entitled to reply on the terms of its standard personal guarantee and on oral evidence from the officials allegedly present when the guarantee was allegedly signed by Mr Lennon.