Saturday 23 September 2017

'Ireland's richest businessman' faces bankruptcy after losing 10-year battle with bank

Michael Taggart working on a site in Limavady last year. Photo: North West Newspix
Michael Taggart working on a site in Limavady last year. Photo: North West Newspix

Greg Harkin

Once named as one of Ireland's richest businessmen, Michael Taggart has admitted he is facing bankruptcy.

Mr Taggart (49) ran one of the biggest property-building empires in these islands with sites across 14 counties in Ireland and projects across Europe and North America.

After a 10-year battle with Ulster Bank centring on a development site in Kinsealy in north Co Dublin, Mr Taggart said he and his brother John, (57) have decided it was time to "move on".

He had been working recently as a consultant for a series of new Taggart Homes developments in the North - 1,000 homes over three years - operated by his son Nick (25) and the former management team of the old company.

"John and I have fought the battle with the banks and unfortunately all the High Court cases against Ulster Bank have failed," Mr Taggart said.

"Rumours have been flying around for the past few weeks and unfortunately it's true - the bank has left us with no option but to go for bankruptcy.

"We had borrowed monies which we had offered in settlement but this was refused so there's only one option (bankruptcy) left. It's unfortunate but we have no other options open to us.

"Nick has gone into the building business and I've been able to advise him along the way. I've even worked on the sites myself to help him to get started."

Last month the Belfast High Court ruled that the Taggart brothers were liable for a €4.3m personal guarantee over the Kinsealy land. A second personal guarantee of £5m (€5.75m) is also outstanding.

In a 30-day hearing Mr Taggart had claimed that Ulster Bank's restructuring arm Global Restructuring Group (GRG) had deliberately put his multi-million euro construction companies out of business, a claim strenuously denied by the bank.

Four weeks ago Ulster Bank's parent company RBS set up a £400m (€460m) compensation scheme for businesses closed down by its GRG unit. More than 12,000 companies are suing the bank for compensation.

"I'm the only person in these islands who fought them (Ulster Bank/RBS) all the way through the courts. I was under cross-examination for 13 days and at times I asked myself 'what's this all about?'" the father-of-four said.

"I have to concede we lost and move on and I really hope the thousands of companies who were put out of business get their lives and their money back. I would encourage Ulster Bank customers in the Republic to push for a similar scheme because GRG operated on both sides of the Border."

Mr Taggart was pictured 18 months ago working on one of the new building sites in Limavady. At the time he said that he "wasn't afraid of hard work" and said he had started out with just £1,500.

"Family has always been at the centre of my life and it has been wonderful working as an adviser to Nick over the past year or so and to other businesses throughout Ireland," Mr Taggart, who was 2007 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, said.

"My brother John suffered ill-health during the battle with the bank. It was really hard on him. Thankfully he's on the road to recovery and I think bankruptcy will draw a line in the sand for us.

"It's nice to see a new Taggart Homes back, with Nick and old friends at the helm and supported by myself and John."

Irish Independent

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