Wednesday 24 January 2018

Bill Cullen keeps luxury hotel afloat with massive loans

Jackie Lavin and Bill Cullen have owned the Muckross
Park Hotel in Killarney since 1990
Jackie Lavin and Bill Cullen have owned the Muckross Park Hotel in Killarney since 1990

Peter Flanagan

A TOP hotel owned by 'Apprentice' star Bill Cullen is being propped up by huge loans from the businessman in order to stay afloat, newly released records reveal.

Accounts just filed for the five-star Muckross Park Hotel in Killarney show the business lost €877,725 in 2009, compared to a €1.3m loss a year earlier.

Accumulated losses on the business now stand at more than €9.9m. The hotel does not have to file accounts for 2010 yet, but it is believed to have made a loss last year as well.

Mr Cullen lent some €523,475 to the hotel during 2009, the accounts reveal. He has now pumped more than €8.4m into the business from his own funds although there is no indication he will pull his support from the business.

Mr Cullen has owned the hotel since 1990 with his partner Jackie Lavin. It employs some 70 people.

While Mr Cullen is renowned as one of the country's leading businessmen, in the accounts he and Ms Lavin accepted that Muckross Park "continued to incur substantial losses" which cast doubt on the hotel's future.

The ongoing problems for the hotel -- it has failed to register a profit in more than a decade -- and the poor trading conditions "create a material uncertainty over the company's ability to continue trading as a going concern", they said.

The couple added that the company is also negotiating with its bankers to ensure the availability of the required banking facilities.

Mr Cullen has a number of guarantees with his lenders, including a personal guarantee of €350,000 with AIB.

Bank of Ireland holds a guarantee worth €126,974 as well as "a letter of set off" which would allow the bank to seize deposits in the event of non-payment.

ACC Bank is also a major creditor.


Mr Cullen's loans to the company and the talks with the banks mean there is a "reasonable expectation that the company will have adequate resources to continue to trade for the foreseeable future", the accounts state.

Mr Cullen was not available for comment yesterday.

However, a spokesman insisted that, despite the losses, the hotel was "moving in the right direction" and hoped to move into profit "soon".

Since buying the hotel, the couple have added 68 rooms, a conference centre and spa.

Ms Lavin has also launched a range of cosmetics that can be bought only at the hotel.

Mr Cullen has seen his public profile skyrocket since taking on the role of the boss on TV3's 'The Apprentice' in 2008. He is thought to be worth around €34m personally.

His main business, Glencullen Holdings, runs a number of car dealerships. The company's most recent accounts revealed a loss of more than €10m, but it is believed to have returned to profit last year.

Mr Cullen has lent more than €19m of his own money to that company.

He is also a director of the Irish Youth Foundation and sits on the board of the Dublin Airport Authority. His bestselling book, 'It's a Long Way From Penny Apples', chronicles his life from Dublin's inner city to the top of the business world.

Irish Independent

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