A HIGH-flying lawyer and property investor who is being sued for almost €70m by Bank of Ireland owes more than €800m to banks in several different countries.
Corporate law specialist Brian O'Donnell, whose law firm Brian O'Donnell and Partners is on a panel of legal advisers to the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), has hit back at Bank of Ireland (BoI) and claims that the bank is engaged in a "campaign" to force him to sell a prime property in London.
BoI has begun legal proceedings against Mr O'Donnell, a former managing partner of William Fry solicitors, his doctor wife Mary Pat, and their companies, aimed at recovering loans of almost €70m.
The socialite couple, who were ranked in the 'Sunday Times' Rich List and live on Vico Road in Killiney, did not attend the Commercial Court yesterday.
They claim that BoI has adopted a strategy, dating back to 2008, to keep them under "constant pressure" to force them to sell shares in a property holding company whose only asset is the landmark Sanctuary Building close to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.
The action is the latest in a wave of legal actions against professionals, including lawyers and medics, who got caught up in the property boom.
Despite being placed on NAMA's legal panel, Brian O'Donnell and Partners, based in Dublin's Merrion Square, has not received any work to date from the toxic loans agency.
Yesterday, Mr Justice Peter Kelly granted an application by Paul Gardiner, for BoI, to transfer to the Commercial Court proceedings for €69.5m summary judgment orders against the couple arising from various loans, including a €7.7m loan to purchase a property at Ailesbury Road, Dublin, and other facilities to refinance property loans with Ulster Bank and Anglo Irish Bank.
BoI claims default for some time of interest payments on various facilities and also that the couple had failed ultimately to advance acceptable proposals to address their indebtedness and that of their companies.
Last December, the bank demanded repayment of the facilities and also demanded repayments under various guarantees of the couple.
Last night, sources close to Mr O'Donnell said that "no stone had been left unturned" in efforts to work with BoI with whom the couple have banked for 34 years.
In court filings, Mr O'Donnell, who insists that the litigation with BoI does not affect his international property portfolio, said that the bank had refused additional security of some €20m.
Mr O'Donnell added that he had executed some €100m in transactions with it during that time and had also operated BoI's treasury operations through BoI Capital Markets to the extent of some €2bn.
Mr Justice Kelly yesterday rejected arguments by Maurice Collins, for the couple, of inactivity by the bank in relation to default such as disentitled the bank to have the case fast-tracked in the Commercial Court.
Mr Collins argued that the bank had failed to give the couple a proper opportunity to service and refinance the various loan facilities. It could be argued there was an implied term in loan agreements that the bank would act in good faith and not frustrate his clients so as to try and get advantage concerning properties over which it had no security, he said.
In an affidavit, Mr O'Donnell alleged that the bank was trying to pressure him and his wife to sell shares in Redicent Ltd, a property holding company whose only asset was a prime property asset in the UK, Sanctuary Buildings, Westminster, London.
The bank had loaned some £26.7m (€32m) to Redicent under a junior loan facility which was not part of these proceedings and not secured on the Sanctuary Buildings property or the shares of Redicent, he said.
Mr Gardiner said it seemed Mr O'Donnell was both alleging the bank was putting pressure on him to sell the Sanctuary Building and also saying it had blocked the sale. Nothing put forward on behalf of the defendants amounted to a defence to the bank's claim, he said.
The judge allowed three weeks to the couple to outline on affidavit a defence to the summary judgment application and listed it for hearing on March 3 when he will also deal with the proceedings in which BoI wants some €42m summary judgment orders against three companies of the couple over the same loans.