Irish Times' Life President Major T B McDowell's old Revenue dispute
A PRIVATE investment company controlled by Irish Times new Life President, Major T B McDowell, was voluntarily wound up with £30,000 in tax liabilities.
Dowell Limited, to which Irish Times dividends were paid to Major McDowell and his family, was forced to pay penalties to the Revenue Commissioners and was involved in a long-running dispute over payment of taxes.
According to company documents, when it was voluntarily wound up by Major McDowell and his daughter, Karen Erwin, in 1977, there was £180,000 in cash in the Northern Bank and £76,000 in securities. In today's values this would be well over£1 million.
Most of the money appears to have come from the Irish Times when Major McDowell persuaded the directors and shareholders to convert the company into a Trust in 1974.
Last week Major Thomas Bleakley McDowell finally gave up his 'preference shares' in the Irish Times Trust which gave him a virtual veto over the company since the Trust was founded in 1974. The company will now come under the direct control of the board. This opens the way for the Irish Times, which is facing losses of £17 million next year and is seeking to make 250 employees redundant, to raise the cash to put the business on a new commercial footing.
Dowell Ltd., which was incorporated as an investment company in 1965, had two directors, Thomas Bleakley McDowell and his wife Margaret, of Grange Marches, Rathfarham, Dublin. In the following years solicitor David Prentice, accountant Michael Joseph Sugrue and Major McDowell's daughter Karen Erwin, a solicitor and consultant to the Irish Times, also acted as directors.
Although the company was wound up in 1977 it took eight years before the private investment company Dowell Limited was finally liquidated in 1985. Company documents show that in 1979 Major McDowell had to pay £357 in interest for a late payment of tax.
The cause of the long delay in winding up the investment company was given each year as "Settlement of Tax liability".
Although the Irish Times was a Trust the company records show that Major McDowell received a dividend from Irish Times Holdings of £4,953 in 1979; £11,811 in 1980; £7,421 in 1981.
The company records also show that it took until 1983 for the company to pay £15,000 in Corporation Tax, Corporation Profits Tax and Income Tax on income for the year 1979. This included a payment of £5,307 in income tax and interest. The company was finally wound up in December 1985 with assets of £256,549 which were distributed to the shareholders.
Major McDowell, who sported a monocle and always immaculately turned out in a pin-striped suit, was instrumental in setting up the Irish Times Trust in 1974. Its aim was to "publish an independent newspaper primarily concerned with serious issues". However several years later the articles of the Trust were adjusted, giving Major McDowell 10 preference shares and one more vote than the combined votes of all the other directors should any move be made to remove him.
He retired as chief executive in 1997 and was not directly involved in the executive decision to build a £60 million printing plant in Citywest, Dublin, which has used up all the cash reserves of the newspaper and led to the present crisis in the Irish Times.
Part of the Irish Times' problems have stemmed from the bitter internal strife which led to Major McDowells's daughter Karen Erwin failing to be given the job of Chief Executive.