The fallout from the collapse of the Sean Quinn family business empire is right back in the spotlight.
We’ve had articles about the family being “forgotten” on Google; three convicted for the abduction of Kevin Lunney; Sean Quinn giving an interview denying everything and saying he is a victim.
The financial fallout of the collapse of Sean Quinn’s businesses in 2008 was enormous and spread in so many different directions.
Yet it is extraordinary to think that 13 years later, there are still so many loose ends, assets still unsold and the taxpayer on the hook for losses.
Quinn Insurance collapsed after it emerged the company had provided €1.2bn of guarantees on loans of its parent company, Quinn Group. This meant certain assets were double pledged.
The manoeuvre led to a settlement between the financial regulator and Sean Quinn, including a fine. The insurance firm went into administration and the shortfall, to be made up through the levy, is estimated to be well over €1bn.
The administrator has initiated High Court legal proceedings against the insurer’s auditor PwC, which is fighting the case. The case has yet to be heard following several years of legal wrangling over whether the administrator should place several million euro on deposit to cover possible legal costs should they be awarded to the defendants.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled the administrators should deposit €5m as an interim security for possible future legal costs. The administrator is seeking €900m from the case.
The liquidators of IBRC spent several years trying to get full legal possession and control over Quinn family property assets in the Czech Republic, India and Russia to cover losses on loans granted by the former Anglo Irish Bank.
At the same time, the Quinn family issued legal proceedings against IBRC, which in turn sued the family for allegedly putting together a scheme of arrangements which kept assets beyond use.
Eventually, the IBRC reached a settlement agreement with the family in April 2019.
This saw the bank register judgments against the family totalling €440m while a further judgment was agreed totalling $133m (€117.5m) with the family’s consent.
This related to the assets and rents that IBRC said it had not recovered from the group as a result of the scheme.
A stay was placed on all of these judgments once the family members agreed to co-operate and not interfere in the bank’s attempts to gain full control of the assets.
The agreement was reached in April 2019. According to company accounts for Quinn Group Hotels, which owns one of the properties, IBRC became 100pc owner of the company’s shares on November 12, 2019. Five months later, Covid hit.
As things stand, IBRC liquidators have yet to sell the Kutuzoff Tower in Moscow, or property assets in India, or the Hilton Hotel in Prague or the Slieve Russell Hotel in Cavan.
Take the Hilton Hotel in Prague. Former Dalata chief executive Pat McCann provides expertise on the board for IBRC liquidators. McCann is an ideal person to have on the board and ensure the value of the hotels in Prague or Cavan does not suffer.
To put the length of delays in perspective, McCann floated Dalata Hotel Group in 2014, some six years after Quinn Group collapsed. He has grown Dalata exponentially and is now retired.
Dalata has a market capitalisation of €872m today.
But because of the delays, legal wranglings and now Covid, neither the Hilton in Prague nor the Slieve Russell Hotel has been sold.
Company accounts show the Hilton was valued at €235m at the end of 2019, while the company behind the hotel owed IBRC €227m. The Slieve Russell Hotel, quite literally in Sean Quinn’s back yard, doubled its profits in 2019 to nearly €3m. It is now two years since IBRC got possession of all shares in Quinn Group Hotels Ltd and nearly three since the litigation with the family was settled.
The Quinn losses and debts arising from its borrowings from the former Anglo Irish Bank are a little more straightforward. Quinn lost €3.2bn on contracts for difference, and losses to the taxpayer are in the region of €2.5bn. That money is gone.
So is the €144m in legal costs and other fees accrued by IBRC in trying to secure ownership and control of the international property portfolio.
This isn’t just a tale of past losses. There are still financial issues at play.
Can the insurance administrator successfully pursue its auditors in court for €900m? PwC denies any wrongdoing or negligence.
When will the international property portfolio be sold and how much will they fetch?
Who will buy the Slieve Russell Hotel in Sean Quinn’s backyard when it is eventually sold? Would individuals loyal to Sean Quinn take it upon themselves to make life difficult for any new owners?
Will members of the Quinn family buy it?
At every step in this saga, there have been too many unanswered questions.
Significant public interest issues are involved, not least several billion euro of losses plugged by the taxpayer. One wonders if it will ever end.
IBRC liquidators are targeting a sale of the former Quinn assets by the end of next year, according to accounts.
The rationale behind IBRC reaching a settlement with members of the Quinn family has not been outlined.
The full details of the IBRC settlement with Quinn family members was not disclosed.
The settlement agreement between the Central Bank and the former Quinn executives who were subject to a public inquiry process was also confidential.
Thirteen years after the fall of the Quinn empire, there are still too many loose ends.