Irish News

Monday 28 July 2014

Tragic death of superpubs boss Hugh O'Regan

Published 28/11/2012|05:00

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ONE of the iconic personalities of the Celtic Tiger era, publican Hugh O'Regan, has been found dead on the side of a road.

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The married father of four had been reported missing from a Dublin hospital shortly before his body was found.

It is thought that Mr O’Regan (49) died of natural causes.

He was famous for establishing the Thomas Read group of trendy superpubs across Dublin and also at one stage he ran the drinks outlets at Dublin Airport.

The 2008 crash led to the collapse of his business empire with debts of €260m. The firm’s loans had been transferred to the toxic loan agency NAMA.

Mr O’Regan was found dead on the hard shoulder of the N11 dual carriageway at Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wickow.

Mr O’Regan’s body was removed to Loughlinstown Hospital following the discovery by gardai.

A stretch of the N11 was sealed off by gardai for three hours as officers carried out a technical examination. They found no evidence that Mr O’Regan had been struck by a vehicle or had suffered any injuries.

Last July, Mr O’Regan was restricted from acting as a company director for five years by the High Court.

Mr O’Regan, who is survived by his wife Adrienne and sons Stephen, Adam, Alex and Hugo, revolutionised the Dublin leisure sector during the 1990s and 2000s with high-end venues that catered to an increasingly affluent clientele. That all fell apart in 2009, when the collapse of many of his businesses into insolvency ultimately led to the High Court ordering Mr O'Regan to personally pay €37.5m to Anglo Irish Bank to honour guarantees he had given for the company's borrowings.The tragic death of the entrepreneur follows the collapse of a business empire that at its height included Dublin's Thomas Read pubs group and many of the capital's most fashionable haunts, such as Pravda, the Bailey, Ron Black's, Searson's and Lincoln's Inn.

As well as pubs, Mr O'Regan developed the four-star Morrison Hotel in Dublin and had planned to develop the €10m Hibernian United Services Club on St Stephen's Green and the Kilternan Golf and Country Club, close to Dublin city.

The empire was built on debts of around €80m to Anglo Irish Bank and €180m to Irish Nationwide Building Society.

Last night, restaurateur Jay Bourke, one of Mr O'Regan's competitors during the Celtic Tiger years, said the hospitality industry was "devastated" by his death.

"Temple Bar was Hugh's idea, it was his vision," said Mr Bourke.

"I was a competitor of his but I was also in receipt of his kindness. Hugh contributed a huge amount to Irish society and the State".

Friends of Mr O'Regan said he had been under considerable pressure in recent years as the banks closed in.

"For a man who just wanted to create and contribute, he found his vilification very hurtful," said one.

Three court judgments, including the €37.5m owed to Anglo – and two more in favour of Ulster Bank and Irish Life Assurance – were registered on his family home in Sandymount and other properties in 2010.

The four-bedroom house, which includes a conservatory and cinema, went on the market that year for €3.5m but it is understood it has not yet sold.

The last years of Mr O'Regan's life had been dominated by high-profile court clashes with his creditors.

He was restricted under Section 150 of the Companies Act, severely limiting his ability to act as a company director.

The restrictions followed a report into the collapse of the company that operated the Morrison Hotel. It was sent to the office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement by Derek Erals, the liquidator appointed by the courts to wind up the business.

Although Mr O'Regan lost control of his empire three years ago, the high-end venues have continued to operate.

Insolvency

Earlier this year, Russia's wealthiest woman bought the Morrison from NAMA for more than €20m in one of the first hotel sales since the property crash.

Mr O'Regan married Adrienne Bermingham at a ceremony in the University Church, Stephen's Green in 1990.

He was a director of his eldest son Stephen's web-based music-video company BalconyTV until he resigned from the role in June of this year.

Another son, Alex, works in a well-known Dublin pub, while his youngest son, Hugo, is privately educated in a southside school.

Mr O'Regan's brother Jack tragically took his own life at the age of 41 in August 2002.

Irish Independent

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