Tuesday 24 October 2017

Bank agents in €75m debt case get inside home to value art, furniture

Brian O'Donnell
Brian O'Donnell
Brian's O'Donnell's wife Patricia
Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell's son, Bruce O'Donnell, at Gorse Hill, Killiney, Co Dublin, yesterday

Donal O'Donovan and Mark O'Regan

BANK of Ireland yesterday got a 12-hour look inside the mansion at the heart of its €75m claim against Celtic Tiger "golden couple" Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell.

Agents for the bank were given time to examine and catalogue furniture, works of art and the other contents of Gorse Hill in Killiney.

It's the latest twist in the increasingly bitter legal dispute between the bank and the bust property moguls.

O'Donnell family sources said they were given no notice before the agents arrived to document their possessions.

The action comes after Bank of Ireland lost a legal case taken against the O'Donnells in London last Friday.

Bank of Ireland is chasing the O'Donnells for unpaid debts of €75m that the High Court ordered the couple to repay last year.

The latest drama came yesterday morning when a representative from Arthur Cox solicitors arrived at the palatial home accompanied by auctioneers to 'catalogue' various luxury items including widescreen TVs, chandeliers, luxury cars, art, furniture, curtains, rugs and electronic equipment.

The property overlooks the sea in the upmarket Dublin suburb, and at 9,000sq ft it's around nine times the size of an average three-bedroom semi.

The house features a swimming pool and tennis courts as well as a range of outbuildings.

The O'Donnells borrowed to fund a global property portfolio that was once worth a staggering €1bn.

Boom

Gorse Hill was estimated to be worth €30m at the height of the property boom, and could still fetch about €7m.

However, the couple no longer lives there, and have said in court that it is effectively owned by their four adult children through an Isle of Man company.

Bank of Ireland is struggling to recoup the O'Donnell debt after Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell applied for bankruptcy in the UK, where the couple currently live.

In a bitter blow to the bank, it has emerged in court that much of the O'Donnells' one-time property empire is beyond the reach of creditors, even if the couple are declared bankrupt.

This is because properties worth round €360m have been transferred into trusts for their children, including Gorse Hill.

Yesterday, the children who still live at Gorse Hill were served with a court order that gave solicitors from Arthur Cox permission to enter the house and catalogue its contents.

The work, which was understood to have been done by a number of solicitors as well as valuers from EE Auctioneers, was carried out to identify any property owned by Mr and Mrs O'Donnell that the bank may then try to seize in lieu of cash owed.

Bank of Ireland was granted the order to inventory the property following an ex parte application to the Commercial Court on Friday -- ex parte means Mr and Mrs O'Donnell were not aware the case was being heard.

Last week, Mr Justice Peter Kelly adjourned Bank of Ireland's case against the O'Donnells until June 4.

Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell's application for a UK bankruptcy is due to be heard on June 14 in London.

Irish Independent

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