Business Irish

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Ex-minister's bookmakers placed into receivership

A leading bookmakers run by former Government minister Ivan Yates has been put into receivership.

Celtic Bookmakers, headed by the former Fine Gael TD turned broadcaster, warned it is facing significant job losses from its workforce of 237.

All bets will be honoured and paid to customers, the bookie and his wife Deirdre said.

Mr Yates, a presenter on the breakfast show on Newstalk radio, said business had dropped 50% in the last three years.

"Today is a profoundly sad day for our employees, for our families and for ourselves," he said.

"I take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation to all of our wonderful staff, managers, great customers, landlords and suppliers for their support and loyalty over the past 23 years.

"Like many, we did not anticipate the rapid decline in the economy, but I acknowledge that the accelerated growth of the business placed the company in a difficult position given the extent of the recession."

It is feared more than 100 jobs will be lost from 47 betting shops.

Celtic Bookmakers owes the bank six million euro.

Mr Yates and his wife believe the company has gone bust as liabilities exceed assets.

Mr Yates is personally liable for some of the debts and also used a bungalow built for his 78-year-old mother in Wexford and the family farm going back four generations near Enniscorthy to guarantee loans.

In 2007 Celtic Bookmakers had annual income of 180 million euro and an operating profit of four million euro.

Since then, it has reduced costs from 17 million euro to less than 12 million euro, including closing 12 loss-making shops.

The high street betting chain also owes top of the market rents to some landlords across the country.

Mr Yates said he tried to close weaker shops in the business but it is understood he was faced with massive so-called "surrender" bills by some property tycoons of up to 2.5 million euro.

A number of court actions have been taken against Mr Yates to reclaim some of this money.

The company said it moved to seek receivership before the crisis got any worse.

Mr Yates said worsening trading conditions last year stopped the company from securing a suitable merger, refinancing or restructuring despite efforts over many months.

The couple asked bank executives at AIB to appoint an accountancy firm to the business. Neil Hughes of Hughes Blake Accountants will oversee the running of the company during the next few weeks.

Mr Yates, who has a ministerial pension, said neither he nor his wife have taken any pay for the past three years while salaries have been at a minimum during the lifetime of the business. He said he never took more than 25,000 euro a year in wages.

The Celtic Bookmakers family-run chain began trading in 1987. Mr Yates' wife Deirdre is the licensed bookmaker and he is the chairman and managing director.

Mr Yates said he would be back on air with Newstalk on January 17.

Press Association

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