Sunday 25 September 2016

Clerys: Liquidators appointed to company that formerly operated department store

Aodhan O'Faolain

Published 06/07/2015 | 13:35

Staff and supporters protest outside Clerys on O’Connell Street, Dublin, last week
Staff and supporters protest outside Clerys on O’Connell Street, Dublin, last week
SHOPPING MECCA: The original Clerys drawings of 1898
SHOPPING MECCA: Clerys pictured in 1924, two years after it reopened after the Rising

The High Court has confirmed the appointment of joint liquidators to the company that formerly operated Clerys Department Store.

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Today Mr Justice Brian Cregan confirmed the appointment insolvency practitioners Eamon Richardson and Kieran Wallace of KPMG as joint liquidators of OCS Operations Ltd, which since 2012 operated Clery's Department Store and Warehouse.

There was no objection to today's application. The court also heard that in a report furnished to the court by liquidators that they intend to establish a committee made up of the firm's creditors which will investigate a number of matters of concern.

Mr Paul Gallagher SC for the liquidators said that a creditors meeting will take place on a yet unspecified date in August.

Last month they were appointed on a provisional basis by Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, after the court was told the company was balance sheet insolvent. A short time after the appointment was made the iconic Dublin City Centre store shut it doors and ceased trading.

The company, which petitioned the court for the appointment of provisional liquidators,  ceased trading with the loss of more than 400 jobs.  The company directly employed 130 people.

Louise Hogan who has been left high and dry by the sudden closure of Clerys
Louise Hogan who has been left high and dry by the sudden closure of Clerys

While approximately another 330 were employed by 50 concession holders, who sold their wares in the department store, while paying OCS Operations a percentage of their turnover.

At the High Court Mr Justice Cregan said he was satisfied to confirm the liquidators appointment. The Judge also made a number of orders including that the former directors,  Mr Rafael Klotz and Mr Malcolm Maclennan Macaulay of the company swear statements of affairs.

SHOPPING MECCA: The original Clerys drawings of 1898
SHOPPING MECCA: The original Clerys drawings of 1898

Previously the High Court heard that OCS Operations Ltd and OCS Properties Ltd, which owns the Dublin City Centre property, were both owned by OCS Investment Holdings Ltd and formed the OCS group of companies.

The group acquired Clery's in 2012 from receivers. It was put on the market by the its ultimate parent Gordon Brothers in January.

SHOPPING MECCA: Clerys pictured in 1924, two years after it reopened after the Rising
SHOPPING MECCA: Clerys pictured in 1924, two years after it reopened after the Rising

The appointments were sought after the OCS group of companies was sold to Natrium Ltd hours before the appointment of liquidators was sought.

Following the sale Natrium removed OCS Operations from the OCS Group and transferred the shares in the company (Operations) to insolvency practioner Jim Brydie, Kingsmere Road London for €1.

Mr Brydie and another insolvency practioner Mr Brendan Cooney, after being approached by Natrium, were appointed directors of OCS Operations. The previous directors resigned.

Mr Brydie and Mr Cooney, who are separate entities from Natrium and had no involvement in the sale of the OCS, then examined the company's financial position.

OCS Operations, represented by Kelly Smith Bl,  said arising out of the examination the company affairs had no alternative other than to seek the appointment of a liquidators.

Since 2012 OCS Operations had traded at a loss and was now balance sheet insolvent.  Counsel said between August 2012 and January 2015 the company has lost €4.3m. It relied on its parent OCS Investment Holdings for support in the form of loans.

While the loans were not repayable until September 2016 a change in the shareholder, as has occurred, means a demand for the loans facilities to be repaid can be made.  

Financial projections showed a cash flow deficiency in August.  OCS Operations would require further funding from the group parent OCS Investment Holdings. That firm indicated it would no longer in a position to provide any further financial support to the company.

OCS Operations operated the company on foot of a lease from OCS Properties, which expired earlier this year, and it is no longer willing to grant a new lease.  OCS Operations, counsel said, has no entitlement to remain on in occupation of the store. 

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