Tuesday 23 October 2018

Revealed: 'Eddie Hobbs fund' investors lost €13m

Boarded-up €7,000 house is all that's left of Brendan Investments cash

Eddie Hobbs. Photo: Tony Gavin
Eddie Hobbs. Photo: Tony Gavin
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

HUNDREDS of investors who pumped €13m into the Eddie Hobbs-fronted Brendan Investments Pan European Property plc (BIPEP) have been left with just a single boarded-up house in Detroit valued at just €7,000 and €29,000 in a bank account.

The fund once controlled hundreds of properties, but a single derelict house in strife-hit Detroit currently up for sale is the sole remaining property owned by the fund.

Around €29,000 in a bank account, and a potential VAT refund of €53,000 are the other assets. The investors are nursing losses of more than €12.9m.

Liquidator Aidan Garcia was appointed to try to recover money for investors after Brendan Investments PEP collapsed into liquidation earlier this year.

Yesterday, at a packed meeting in a Dublin hotel, the court appointed liquidator told dozens of mostly middle aged and elderly investors that almost all of the €13m raised by the high profile scheme in 2007 had been wiped out after failed investments in Germany and the crisis hit US city of Detroit.

The devastating losses were racked up despite the funds only being invested after the property crash.

In response to questions from the floor of the meeting, the liquidator said he would look at a number of avenues in an attempt to increase their recovery.

Investors were told he has powers to look back through the history of the company to sift through how the losses had wracked up.

Mr Garcia said that he intended to look at payments of around €4m that were made from the fund to businesses in the US to see if any of that money could be recouped, as well as examining the Brendan Investments fee structure - which saw the main fund pay 1pc of its value to a sister company owned and controlled by the directors every year.

Those fees added up to in excess of €2m paid out by the main fund while the company was in operation. However, the fee structure were clearly flagged in BIPEP's original prospectus, seen by the Irish Independent, as was the potential that investors could suffer a loss.

Distressed

In response to questions from the floor, Mr Garcia also said he would look at whether the fund originally set up to buy high quality European real estate acted properly when it shifted into distressed America housing, something individual investors say they were against. He said financial results had not been filed for any year since 2014.

The timing of the Brendan Investments fund in 2007 meant that many of the investors put the proceeds of their special savings incentive accounts (SSIA) into the scheme.

Then RTÉ star Eddie Hobbs had fronted a massive publicity drive to attract people to Brendan Investments, which he had established along with Vincent Regan, Hugh O'Neill and Dermot Flanagan.

The four were originally directors of BIPEP and the sister company, Brendan Investments Property Management, which managed the fund.

Up to 800 investors - including families, small business owners, farmers, GPs, and even a priest in Brooklyn, New York - ploughed in €13m.

The minimum investment was €5,000 but in some cases, including Eddie Hobbs himself, the figures were significantly larger.

Eddie Hobbes and Dermot Flanagan, who were non executive directors, resigned as directors in early 2015, by which time the value of the assets had declined to about €5.5m, according to financial accounts audited by PwC.

Last night Eddie Hobbs said he couldn't comment on the situation while the liquidator works through his process. He's previously said he'd suffered significant losses himself on Brendan Investments.

Irish Independent

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