Wednesday 23 August 2017

Survival scheme preserving 130 of 200 jobs approved for company operating Best Menswear

The Four Courts in Dublin
The Four Courts in Dublin

Tim Healy

A SURVIVAL scheme preserving 130 of 200 jobs has been approved for the company operating Best Menswear stores, along with other fashion stores, across Ireland.

Best's largest creditor, Allied Irish Banks, has agreed to write down more than €9m off its €13.5m debt and will continue funding the company after it exits examinership on Friday, the High Court heard.

Preferential and unsecured creditors will respectively get ten and five per cent of what they are owed while the remaining debt will be extinguished.

Ms Justice Caroline Costello today confirmed the survival scheme after refusing to direct that examiner Declan McDonald of Price WaterhouseCooper give the Revenue Commissioners detailed information underlying cash flow projections plus a detailed breakdown of the basis for some €289,000 fees agreed.

Those involve €170,000 for the examiner and his lawyers and €119,000 for the company’s separate lawyers and its property advisers (relating to repudiation of leases).

Seeking that information earlier, Jennifer M. O'Connell BL said Revenue, owed more than €700,000, wished to see the detailed information underlying the cash flow projections before deciding its position on the scheme.

Garret Byrne BL, for the examiner, argued the Revenue application was unfair, unnecessary for a decision whether to approve the survival scheme and nothing more than a "box-ticking exercise".

The information related to the cash projections was commercially sensitive, the fees were reasonable and the Revenue had not suggested they were exorbitant, he said.

Rossa Fanning BL, for Best, said the Revenue’s application was wrong in law and “dangerous”.

This was because, counsel said, it could delay the company’s exit from examinership which it sought last July after the sudden closure of Clery's department store had a "catastrophic" effect on its cashflow.

Best was a concession holder operating its largest store from Clery's premises.

Mr Fanning said the Revenue has no superior entitlements over other creditors and does not have a "policeman role" among creditors. 

What the Revenue really wanted was to "second-guess" the professional fees and reallocate division of the €800,000 investment, he argued.

This application seemed part of "a general campaign" by Revenue concerning fees of professionals.

Refusing the Revenue application, the judge said the Companies Act requires, when deciding on a survival scheme, the court should have the "appropriate" information to decide the matter and she considered the court had that information.

This was not a failed examinership where the court would scrutinise fees and it was not suggested by Revenue the fees here were "surprisingly high", she said.

While Revenue suggested the level of fees would reduce the dividend for creditors, the court could not unpick a survival scheme in this way.

Confirming the survival scheme, the judge said  it involved writing down creditors liabilities "in a significant way" and Revenue would get significantly less" than in other examinerships.

However, she was satisfied the proposals were fair and equitable. If the company was liquidated, there would be "nothing left" for anyone except AIB.

The judge said she had "every reason to believe" the company will benefit by the existing management remaining and being involved in the investor company.  This company was properly run before it got into difficulties not of its own making but  due to the economic crisis, she said. 

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