Monday 20 November 2017

‘There’s no hiding place for me in this disaster’ - Yates

Ivan Yates at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin yesterday after his Celtic Bookmakers business went into receivership. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ivan Yates at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin yesterday after his Celtic Bookmakers business went into receivership. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ailish O'Hora

Ailish O'Hora

An emotional Ivan Yates put his hands up yesterday and admitted the collapse of his business empire was "totally my own fault."

He also admitted to many sleepless nights in the run-up to Allied Irish Banks seizing control of Celtic Bookmakers.

Mr Yates now faces losing his family home and half the 160-acre farm, in Blackstoops outside Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

The land is valued at just under €2m -- leaving a shortfall of €3m owed to the bank even if the estate were sold.

Mr Yates added he also had a deep-set sense of failure for his wife Deirdre, four children and the 237 staff at Celtic Bookmakers. "This was supposed to be Deirdre's pension," he said. "I can't blame the banks or anyone else."

He also admitted to putting everything up as collateral for loans to the company. "That includes the family home and my mother's bungalow which is built on the land -- although she has a right of residence to it. Everything was all quids in."

He added that he had known for the past two weeks that the company was in deep trouble.

"I feel demoralised and a burden of responsibility to everyone in the company -- especially the staff.

"We (with his wife Deirdre) took all the major decisions on merger talks, expansion and there was no one else there making the decisions. We were in this together although she owns the shares."

However, he admits they made some ill-advised decisions in the past including the multi-million acquisitions of businesses in Limerick and Dublin between 2006 and 2007.

"We were over-zealous at the top of the market," he said. "I can see that now." But, he added, these were business decisions designed to remain competitive in a fast-changing business and had nothing to do with the property market.

"These were not property plays -- we don't own the premises of any of the bookies. I have no interest in property."

And Mr Yates also admitted that there is no golden nest egg of investments the family can fall back on.

"We have no big investments abroad. I hate flying and I've taken two trips abroad in my life. I rent the Dublin property I stay in when I'm up here for work with Newstalk.

"We made mistakes but they were all designed to boost the business."

At its peak in 2007, Celtic Bookmakers was worth an estimated €30m, but Mr Yates had realised the boomtime was over with average bets taking a massive hit. And while bookmaking is usually one that is considered recession-proof -- it is always the smaller firms that fall foul of the bigger players.

"I've known for some time that the business was in trouble but the last 48 hours were the worst." He said part of being in business is knowing when the time is up.

"There has always been an entrepreneurial spirit in my family," he said.

Mr Yates is a descendant of the John Jameson whiskey family and four generations of the family have lived in Wexford. His father and grandfather were wool merchants.

He added that the speed of the loss of the business hit home this afternoon when his realised his mobile phone service had been cut off.

"I'll have to get a ready-to-go now.

"I have 93 text messages in my phone since this morning and I can't reply to any of them."

Irish Independent

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