Wednesday 13 December 2017

Philip Lynch 'wowed' by prospect of €19m profit

Court told of Philip Lynch's joy when he discovered potential worth of land deal

Philip Lynch arriving at the Four Courts for the hearings this week on his family's action
against AIB over a land deal loan. Photo: COLLINS COURTS
Philip Lynch arriving at the Four Courts for the hearings this week on his family's action against AIB over a land deal loan. Photo: COLLINS COURTS

Siobhan Creaton

"Wow, I owe you" was how leading businessman Philip Lynch responded when his personal assistant told him he stood to make €19m on a Waterford land deal in just two to three years at the height of the property boom.

It was a massive profit, to be shared with his wife Eileen and their four children -- Judith, Therese, Philippa and Paul -- who were all brought in on the deal to buy 86 acres with property developer Gerry Conlan in 2006.

And it was all the sweeter because it had cost Mr Lynch just €2.5m, which he had paid as a deposit for his 50pc share of the land.

Together the Lynch family and Mr Conlan borrowed €25m from AIB to buy the land with the intention of selling it off in parcels after it was rezoned, quickly repaying back the loan and taking a handsome profit.

The family claims the money was borrowed on a non-recourse basis, saying they believed AIB could take the land back to clear the loan if they were unable to repay it but could not pursue them individually for the funds. The bank denies this.

On the seventh day of the family's High Court action against AIB, and two firms of solicitors -- LK Shields, which advised the Lynch family and Matheson Ormsby Prentice (MOPs) that advised Mr Conlan -- the court heard about Mr Lynch's extensive investment portfolio.

Robert Burns, a chartered accountant who described himself as Mr Lynch's personal assistant at One51, also handled Mr Lynch's financial affairs. Mr Burns had been involved in the discussions with another developer, Gerry Prendergast, about Mr Lynch getting involved in the Millennium Park development in Naas a few months before he got involved in the Waterford deal.

Mr Lynch, who knew Mr Prendergast, wanted to borrow €25m to buy into that deal but pulled out at the last minute after AIB insisted that he, Mr Prendergast and the other investors provide joint and several guarantees to make them all liable for the €190m that was being separately borrowed for the project.

Around the same time Mr Lynch had secured €1m from AIB to invest in a private equity fund he had also taken a shareholding in the Gift Voucher Shop company and had borrowed $1m (€706,280) to invest the Sawgrass golf resort in Florida as part of a deal put together by developer Paddy Kelly, and financier Niall McFadden.

He also got involved in backing a new insurance venture that he funded from his own resources.

At the time his net worth was put at €48m.

The case continues next week when Mr Lynch and his family will be cross-examined on their understanding of the €25m loan that AIB is pursuing them to repay.

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