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Billionaire Coulson hooks up with O'Brien at Harvest Energy

Ireland's newest billionaire Paul Coulson has joined the board of Harvest Energy, the mega fuel company, alongside multibillionaire Denis O'Brien and representatives of Trafigura, the world's third largest independent oil trader.

Coulson, who made his fortune running glass bottle and tin can company Ardagh, joins the business about six months after its parent company went through a radical restructuring that saw €64m owed to taxpayer-owned IBRC written off.

The Paris-based financier has also joined the board along with O'Brien of sister company Blue Ocean Associates.

Blue Ocean and Harvest's former parent company Geneva Holdings was placed into liquidation in September 2012, leading to €64m worth of debts owed by the firm being written off by State-owned IBRC, along with other stakeholders taking a hit.

The deal to write off debt to a consortium involving O'Brien was approved by the board of IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, and by the European Commission.

Geneva had repaid a working capital facility of $175m in full to IBRC prior to being placed into liquidation.

The company's trading businesses required substantial investment to survive which IBRC, as a bank in wind-down, felt it could not provide. Other solutions like placing Geneva into administration would have only resulted in greater losses the bank's external advisers told it.

The ownership of Geneva Holdings at the time of its liquidation is unclear, but alongside O'Brien it also included the company's management and a number of high net worth clients of Anglo.

Among the reasons Geneva required such a large write-off was poor hedging and trading practices leading to exceptional losses and poor operational and risk controls, which exposed the business to volatile crude oil price movements.

Harvest Energy has operations in the UK, Holland, Germany, France and the Baltic. Its principal business is in Britain where it supplies 10 per cent of the UK's motor fuel requirements. Coulson did not respond to requests for comment nor did Harvest.

Irish Independent