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Stakes are high as D-Day beckons for contrite businessman

ALMOST four decades after he began building his family empire, Sean Quinn is facing his D-Day.

In a matter of weeks, the powers that be will decide on a new owner for Quinn Insurance Limited (QIL).

The decision could see Mr Quinn permanently lose the insurer he spent 14 years growing to greatness.

If he loses QIL, he loses his only means of repaying a €2.8bn loan to Anglo Irish Bank.

And if he can't pay his debts, his wider Quinn Group conglomerate faces a decidedly uncertain future.

With stakes that high, it's no surprise that the one-time billionaire isn't content to sit idly by and watch fate take its course.

In recent weeks, his lieutenants have been in frequent contact with Anglo Irish Bank, trying to revive a bid that would see Anglo and the Quinn family takeover QIL together.

The Quinns say a joint Anglo bid would see all €2.8bn of debt paid down within seven years, and would also guarantee maximum job protection across Quinn's 6,000 staff.

Anglo begs to differ.

On a financial level, it believes it can get more value for the taxpayer by bidding for QIL with an international insurer that will put up a substantial whack of the €600m needed to do the deal.

And on a more practical level, it believes the chances of its bid succeeding are considerably higher if the offer is "de-Quinned", since the €3bn share gamble taken by Mr Quinn is what landed QIL in administration.

Beyond Anglo, there are others who are deeply sceptical any Quinn family involvement in the insurer's future.

They believe that if the Quinns' bid was successful, Mr Quinn couldn't stop himself meddling in the insurer's running and casting a shadow over whatever new management was installed.

And they believe that the family, which was once the richest in Ireland, wouldn't be willing to give up all rights to profits QIL might make in the future.

Yesterday, Mr Quinn attempted to set the record straight, telling the Irish Independent he and his family were "happy to set aside all financial interest and all influence in QIL". It's a remarkable statement from the man who believes he built Ireland's most successful insurance company and who was so intimately involved in its runnings he could ream off claims data like his ABCs.

And it's a remarkable show of contrition from a man who once slammed QIL's administration as "the biggest mistake in Irish corporate history".

But it's nothing less than what's demanded by these remarkable times.

Irish Independent