Wednesday 21 February 2018

Quinn will step aside in bid to save his empire

Sean Quinn in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, earlier this month
Sean Quinn in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, earlier this month
The Quinn building in Blanchardstown, Dublin

Emmet Oliver and Dearbhail McDonald

Sean Quinn is prepared to step aside from his multi-billion euro business in an effort to save the rest of his heavily indebted empire, the Irish Independent has learned.

The news came as Ireland's Quinn Insurance yesterday accepted the Financial Regulator's decision to put the firm into permanent administration.

It has also been learned that Anglo Irish Bank will need to draw down taxpayer's money immediately if it is forced to write off some, or all, of its €2.8bn of debts to the Quinn family.

The Quinn family are the biggest debtors of State-owned Anglo and if their debts cannot be recouped, Anglo's capital will fall below levels required by regulations, triggering a need for further money.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, senior executives at the Quinn Group said founder Mr Quinn would be willing to step aside from the business that he built up over almost four decades if it meant getting a deal over the finishing line.

The Financial Regulator has expressed concerns about Mr Quinn remaining as chairman of the Quinn Group and this has been the key stumbling block for the regulator in any discussions on a takeover deal from Anglo Irish Bank.

"I don't think anybody is going to be precious," Liam McCaffrey, chief executive of the Quinn Group said. "I don't think Sean Quinn would be an obstacle, or make himself an obstacle in finding an optimum solution to the position we are in," he said.

Several options are now being considered to deal with the financial position of Quinn Insurance and the debts held by the Quinn family. These are believed to include investors taking over the Quinn Group in exchange for writing off their debts.


Asset sales by the company are also being looked at. The Quinn Insurance UK business is expected to resume shortly, even as early as today, sources indicated last night. However job losses are likely as not all the UK business will be resuming, leaving some staff without a role.

State-owned Anglo Irish Bank has proposed injecting hundreds of millions of euro into the Quinn Group as part of a restructuring package.

The Irish Independent has learned that Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield met with Murdoch McKillop, who earlier this week was appointed an interim director of the Quinn Group.

The pair met at the regulator's office late on Wednesday night and held a "full and frank" discussion about Quinn Insurance including new material about the insurer which was set to be aired in the High Court next Monday.

Less than 12 hours after the meeting, described as "hugely important", Quinn Insurance abandoned its plans to fight the appointment of administrators.

Mr McKillop was advised by the regulator of the additional material relating to Quinn Insurance, negative coverage of which may have adversely affected the Quinn Group's survival plans.

The material will not now be publicised in light of the decision to abandon the case.

Asked about reports that gardai may get a file on Quinn Insurance and its activities, Mr McCaffrey said he was not aware of any staff from that company or the Quinn Group being interviewed by either gardai or the regulator.

He said the Quinn companies now accepted they had to have a more cordial relationship with the regulator. "We were angry initially, but we have to get over that,'' he said.

"We have to live in the real world," he added. He declined to say whether he supported the Anglo deal, but said it had merit.

Irish Independent

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