Wednesday 17 January 2018

Man who was once named as Ireland's richest is back working on building site

Michael Taggart on the site of his new build in Limavady
Michael Taggart on the site of his new build in Limavady
Michael Taggart on the site of his new build in Limavady
Michael taggart pictured for the ‘Irish Independent’ in 2007

Greg Harkin

A man once named Ireland's richest and who lost his property empire in the economic crash is back working on a building site.

Michael Taggart (48) is starting all over again after a seven-year legal battle with a bank but has warned that Dublin's housing crisis is being deepened by the lack of professional developers.

The father of four has opened the first showhouse on a development in the North in eight years, plans to build 82 homes and says he has already sold 20 of them off plans.

The developer was the 2007 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and was named by the 'Sunday Independent' that year as Ireland's richest man with an estimated personal wealth topping €1bn.


But within two years his worldwide empire was gone.

He blamed Ulster Bank and last month he completed 16 days in the witness box in a 31-day High Court action in Belfast against the bank.

The Co Derry man was seeking €6m in personal losses plus unspecified damages for the loss of his empire.

The Ulster Bank counter-sued seeking €9m it says it was owed in personal guarantees on land deals, one of them at Kinsealy in north County Dublin.

Michael Taggart and his brother John claim they turned down multi-million euro offers for properties in England in 2007 after allegedly being assured by Ulster Bank they didn't need to sell any of their portfolio.

However internal bank documents produced for the recent hearing showed internal worries about the Taggarts, but it was claimed that these were never passed to them.

A judge is expected to issue a ruling in the case before the end of June after the landmark legal case. Speaking at his first new site in eight years in Co Derry at the weekend, Mr Taggart said he was 'just delighted' to be 'doing what I've always done'.

He told the Irish Independent he was 'just delighted' to be back.

"I started like this more than two decades ago with £1,500 and I've never been afraid of a day's work," he said.

"The development is financed by investors. I have a proven track record and have delivered more than 8,000 homes to the market since we started out and that's what I have started again.

"At the end of the day we have two choices which is sit and do nothing or get up and get moving; fortunately I am as determined to succeed as ever and intend to do it all again now that the legal case has been heard.

"We'll see what happens with the (Ulster Bank) case in the next few weeks however I will continue to grow the family business from the bottom upwards regardless. We have done it before will do it again only I am a lot wiser and more experienced."

The Plantation View development in Limavady consists of 82 homes ranging in price between £125,000 and £250,000.

"We are averaging a sale per day at the moment," said Taggart.

But he warns that the housing crisis in Dublin looks set to continue.

"I've had contact from people with opportunities to look at in the market there [in Dublin] but right now, I'm committed to getting this one off the ground first," he said.

"The problem in Dublin now is not about finance or sites, there appears to be a lack of professional developers out there experienced in large scale development.

"So many developers were wiped out in the downturn, others had their lives destroyed and some had mental breakdowns and never recovered from what happened to them," he added.

Irish Independent

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