Tuesday 12 November 2019

Thomas Crosbie Holdings in ‘perilous financial position’ - courts

Ray Managh

THOMAS Crosbie Holdings Ltd (TCH) was described in the High Court today as being in "a perilous financial position."

The statement was challenged before Mr Justice Michael Peart by barrister Eoin Clifford, counsel for the newspaper group, who said the position described was not accepted by the company.

Mr Clifford said the situation had been addressed in an affidavit of group human resources manager Barry Colgan who said TCH was in ongoing dialogue with its bankers in relation to its banking facilities.

He said the Group continued to enjoy the support of its bankers and shareholders. It owned a stable of well-known brands including the Irish Examiner and Sunday Business Post and employed 600 people.

The reference to Thomas Crosbie Holdings being in a perilous financial position was made by Mr Patrick O’Reilly, counsel for former Roscommon Herald chief executive Brian Nerney.

Mr Nerney, of Carrick Road, Boyle, Co Roscommon, is seeking an injunction restraining TCH from dismissing him and reinstating him in the event of the court deciding he had been made redundant.

Mr O’Reilly told the court that Thomas Crosbie Holdings, which owns the Roscommon Herald, had conceded in correspondence that the group was in severe financial difficulty.

He said this had a bearing on reaching any agreement on adjourning his application to an early full hearing.

He told Judge Peart the company’s actions were in breach of Mr Nerney’s contract of employment. He had been 27 years with the Roscommon Herald which his parents had owned until he had taken over in 1994. He had sold the newspaper to TCH Ltd in 2004 and had remained on as CEO.

Mr Nerney said he had been told in June last that TCH was considering making his position redundant. He had been receiving an already reduced annual salary of €80,590 with a €12,000 annual car allowance with TCH paying a pension contribution of 7.5 per cent his salary.

By July 17 he had received a letter stating his position was being made redundant and told not to attend the offices of the Roscommon Herald from the following day --- in effect being given six hours to leave his office.

He stated that asking him to leave at short notice had pointed a finger of suspicion at him. Word of his removal had spread throughout the county and he believed people thought he had committed some offence that necessitated his removal.

Barry Colgan said TCH had been reviewing its operations to achieve cost efficiencies. The Group had made 54 people redundant since 2011and Mr Nerney himself had been involved in implementing cost cutting measures. As CEO of the Roscommon Herald he had to make four people redundant in the past three years and seven of the 15 full-time employees had been placed on short-time working.

Mr Nerney said he had expressed his concern about the perilous financial position of the defendant and referred to newspaper articles and an RTE article regarding Allied Irish Banks appointing KPMG to carry out a financial review of Thomas Crosbie Holdings.

Judge Peart will continue the hearing of Mr Nerney’s application tomorrow.

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