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Annus horribilis for former richest man

TO say Sean Quinn had a bad 2011 would be like saying the €3bn he lost on Anglo Irish Bank was a trifling amount. Make no mistake, Sean Quinn didn't just have a bad 2011, he had a truly awful 2011.

The businessman began the year having lost control of his insurance company, but things were to get much much worse when Anglo Irish Bank seized control of his manufacturing and property empire in April. On the same day, the bank was named as the preferred (joint) bidder for Quinn Insurance, ending any hope that the Quinn family could reclaim it.

Mr Quinn would later describe losing the Quinn Group as a "total shock" and "extremely painful", but 2011 wasn't through with him yet.

In November, Anglo moved again, this time asking the courts to grant a judgment of more than €2bn against Mr Quinn for loans he had personally guaranteed. The judgment was granted.

Professing himself unable to pay, Mr Quinn petitioned the court in Belfast for bankruptcy on November 11. "It is the opposite of everything I have sought to achieve in my life," Ireland's one-time richest man told the courts. "Nevertheless I have to accept the reality of my position and take responsibility for my actions."

Even that wasn't to be the end of Mr Quinn's 2011 woes. In December, Anglo launched a challenge to his Northern Ireland bankruptcy, asking the court to annul it so he could instead be bankrupted in the Republic.

If the challenge is upheld, then Mr Quinn could be barred from business life for as long as 12 years under the Republic's system, as against the one-year norm in the North. The judge has promised a verdict in the new year. Mr Quinn will surely be hoping 2012 is a kinder mistress than 2011.

Failed bid left a bitter taste

Patrick Coveney

THE year 2011 offered so much for Greencore and its chief executive Patrick Coveney.

The year 2010 had closed with the Cork man within touching distance of merging his firm with Northern Foods -- a deal that would have transformed the former sugar company into Essenta Foods.

Instead, by the end of this year the Northern Foods deal had been shattered and Mr Coveney was answering questions about whether his company was for sale of not.

Greencore was eventually beaten by British businessman Ranjit Boparan in the fight for Northern and Mr Coveney ended up buying the struggling UK ready meals maker Uniq for around £113m (€135m) -- too much by some analysts' estimates.

That deal was financed in part by a new share issue at 46c a share, which, while negating the need for the company to take on more debt, inflicted more losses on long-term shareholders.

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By mid-December shares were worth 64c each, compared with €1 at the start of the year. A potential takeover by US private equity firm CD&R fell through in December and despite strong full-year results, Mr Coveney will have his work cut out to drive Greencore forward.

Hilco to provide 'assistance'


THE fashion chain was snapped up by UK retail restructuring specialist Hilco in October as the Irish business struggled with deteriorating high street conditions.

A-Wear had been sold by Brown Thomas in 2007 for €71m to a consortium that included the chain's management, such as former nurse Ann Marie Flood.

That purchase had been backed by Alchemy Partners. A-Wear's parent company recorded a €17.8m loss in the 12 months to the end of January 2010 on top of a €4.7m loss the previous year. Hilco said it would be providing "operational assistance" to A-Wear.

Former One51 chief loses costly case

Philip Lynch

BUSINESSMAN Philip Lynch has had a terrible year that ended with his family losing a case in the High Court that has left them owing AIB more than €25m.

Mr Lynch was the driving force behind the successful agricultural group IAWS for many years and one of Ireland's best know businessmen.

He went on to establish the investment group One51 plc that at the height of the boom invested in companies like Irish Continental Group, and National Toll Roads as well as Greenore Port. The company's disastrous performance has wiped out much of its shareholders' investments and Mr Lynch departed leaving a position that paid more than €1m a year.

The family's case relates to a failed property investment they made with developer Gerry Conlan in 2007.

Golden couple may lose luxury home

Brian O'Donnell

SOLICITOR Brian O'Donnell and his wife Mary Pat end this year owing Bank of Ireland €71.5m and are facing the prospect of losing their luxurious Dublin home.

They were the Celtic Tiger golden couple who amassed a €1bn international property portfolio. O'Donnell is one of Ireland's best-known corporate lawyers and was previously managing partner at one of Dublin's biggest law firms, William Fry.

Their 9,000sq ft family home is on Vico Road, Killiney, and could be repossessed by Bank of Ireland, which secured the €71.5m judgment against the couple.

The bank has also appointed a receiver to properties they own at Merrion Square in Dublin. Some of the properties they invested in have been sold as part of their efforts to pay their massive debts.

Not a road toll but it's a massive loss


THE utilities firm that controls Greenstar and once owned the West Link toll bridge in Dublin had the ignominy of notching up one of the largest ever losses in Irish corporate history outside the banking sector.

In August, it revealed that it had racked up a €381m loss in the 12 months to the end of last March.

It wrote off its entire €190m investment in a US-based solar energy business and wrote down the value of Greenstar by €62m.

Its accumulated losses over the past three years have topped €700m. But new chief executive Michael McNicholas -- a former ESB troubleshooter -- has been trying to steady the tiller. He sold off a chink of shares in a US biofuels business NTR has a big stake in and is hoping for better things to come.

Markets conspire to kill best laid plans

Paul Coulson

IT'S not exactly fair to brand Mr Coulson a loser, as the Dubliner has built up Ardagh Glass into a major European manufacturer.

But in May, it looked like the business was full steam ahead for a flotation on the New York Stock Exchange.

That could have valued the stake in the business owned by Mr Coulson and his family at anything as high as €750m.

The company had hoped to list in the third quarter of this year, but pulled the plug on the plans due to turmoil in the markets.

Separately, Mr Coulson had snapped up some shares in Irish financial services group IFG.

IFG was in talks about a possible takeover of its business and the deal could have made a quick and tidy profit for Mr Coulson.

But the IFG takeover then had to be canned, leaving what looked like a sure bet being flayed.

Superquinn almost squeezed out


WHEN Feargal Quinn and his family sold a struggling Superquinn in 2005 for €450m to a consortium that included now failed builder Bernard McNamara, it was the end of an era.

But if the supermarket chain was struggling then, things were going to get a lot worse, despite an interim period when it seemed to be getting back on track.

Cue the recession and intense competition and Superquinn was being left out in the cold.

Executive chairman Simon Burke upped sticks late in 2010 and by early 2011 resigned as non-executive chairman.

Former Dunnes Stores executive Andrew Street was drafted in to stop the rot, but saddled with massive debts and declining sales of food and drink, the writing was on the wall.

In July, Superquinn went into receivership.

A short but unpleasant High Court action quickly followed as director-owners, including Simon Cantrell and Kieran Ryan, fought to reject the receivership and have an examiner appointed.

They subsequently dropped the action.

Musgrave -- which owns the SuperValu and Centra brands -- stepped in to buy Superquinn for about €250m.

Clerys on the rack as it relies on bank

PJ Timmins

THE chief executive of Clerys has seen it all, from boom to bust. Now he's fighting to help the retailer survive the nastiest downturn the country has ever faced.

The company behind the business lost €2m in the 12 months to the end of last January, while Clerys' own net sales -- excluding those of in-store concessions -- sank 19pc. The company accounts warned that if trading got even worse than expected then the very future of the store would be threatened.

The company is currently relying on the financial support of Bank of Ireland to see it through the current dark days, while ominously, it's also been seeking additional cash from the bank so it can push through further operational changes.

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