Money woes force Gaybo back to work after failed investments
Broadcast legend refuses to be bitter despite losing his pension
Gay Byrne is back working again, he says, because his pension has been wiped out and his investments in property syndicates organised by runaway financier Derek Quinlan are under severe "pressure".
"Yes, I am still involved in those property syndicates and they are in varying degrees of trouble at the moment," the broadcaster said yesterday.
As he prepares for his latest prime time series, the 77-year-old internationally acclaimed broadcaster says his financial woes are the same as "hundreds of thousands of people all over Ireland".
But for the famous broadcaster its doubly difficult because it's happening for the second time -- back in 1996 it was revealed that his friend and financial advisor Russell Murphy was a rogue accountant who had stolen his life savings.
"What has happened in this country is putting me under pressure -- I never had a pension in RTE so we invested in what we believed were blue chip stocks, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Anglo -- and all of that has been wiped out," he said last week. And his property investments with Derek Quinlan, which he expected would take care of his financial cares, are now "a millstone around our neck", he said.
"We are living through it to see what we can do about it and it's nasty and awful," he said of his latest foray into investments.
But Gay says that he went in to his investment with the former Quinlan Private "with eyes wide open" and he doesn't lay any of the blame on the international financier who left his multi-million Shrewsbury Road home and went to live in Switzerland when the property bubble burst.
'Gaybo', as he's become known to generations of Irish television viewers, is about to launch the latest venture in his long broadcasting career with 'For One Night Only', a series of compelling interviews with internationally acclaimed Irish musicians -- Imelda May, Bob Geldof, Christy Moore, Daniel O'Donnell, Mary Black and Paul Brady.
"I am working because I have to, although I choose to do it anyway," he said.
He doesn't blame former taxman Derek Quinlan who is now struggling with billions of euro in property debts after high-profile investments like Claridges, the famous London hotel, and the Bank of Santander headquarters, which he bought for over €1bn.
"Again and again journalists seem to think that Derek Quinlan was running some sort of Bernie Madoff scheme -- but he wasn't involved in anything of that kind at all. Derek Quinlan would buy a building and put together a syndicate to buy it, he would contact me or some of his other clients and he would borrow the funds.
"We went in with our eyes wide open. He took a fee and his company ran the property -- collecting the rents and doing all that.
"Before the property bubble burst he started going out on his own and then decided to leave altogether, he wasn't part of the company.
"The problem we now have is that when the original loans were made the buildings were valued at a certain figure -- the loans are being repaid, the tenants are paying their rent, but the banks have changed the 'loan to value' ratio, saying the buildings are only worth half the original amount that was borrowed.
"All you can say is 'well done Sherlock', but because the building is no longer worth what it was they are saying 'we need more money' and that is how they are screwing everybody. The loan to value thing should be tested in the High Court.
"It has been the ruination of so many people and that is the nub of the problem -- yes, it is putting us under pressure."
But as he sauntered around Kerry in the rain last week, the broadcaster was refusing to complain or be bitter about his personal financial woes.
He says when he finished doing the Late Late Show he never wanted to go back to the gruelling schedule he undertook when doing the television show and his morning radio show five days a week.
He says that doing his latest series, filmed before an audience of 200 people, has been an incredible experience. He found Liberties singer Imelda May "truly engaging" and is the first broadcaster to get Bob Geldof to really 'open up' about the tragic separation and suicide of his wife and the mother of two of his children, Paula Yates.
Gay Byrne's new show, 'For One Night Only', begins on RTE 1 next Friday, July 15, at 9.30pm, with the first programme featuring Dublin singer Imelda May