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Saturday 24 March 2018

'Born-again bankrupts' seek fresh starts in UK and States

Sean Dunne
Sean Dunne
Lara Casey
Bernard McNamara
John Ryan
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

AT the height of our illusory boom, they were the ones who boomed the most. With their palatial homes, trophy wives, S Class Mercedes, private jets and helicopters, it seemed as though everything they touched turned to gold while mere mortals struggled to find the first rung of the ladder.

Now the boom has turned to bust, they're blazing a fresh trail for ordinary people laden down with insurmountable debt, and have taken flight to the UK and USA in the quest for a fresh financial start.

In the now much-maligned era of the Celtic Tiger, we called them tycoons, moguls and millionaires. Today, they're fully signed up members of a set you could usefully call the born-again bankrupts.

John Fleming

In terms of blazing a trail, the Cork developer bears the distinction of the being the first of Ireland's fallen tycoons to read the writing on the wall and head for the UK to declare himself bankrupt.

Having weighed up the €1bn in debt owed by his companies and the prospect of repaying it anytime soon, Mr Fleming very wisely slipped away in 2010 and pulled the trigger on a career during which he had built, amongst other things, the five-star Fota Island hotel and golf resort. After exactly a year, he and his wife Noreen were discharged from bankruptcy in November 2011, allowing him to get back into business.

He now works in London with a property consultancy called Crowley Young. According to his contract, his duties are "identifying both commercial and residential property development and investment opportunities in the UK and Europe".

Lara Casey

Celebrity stylist Lara Casey joined what has essentially been the bankrupt boys' club on September 17, 2012.

Apart from working as personal dresser for the pneumatic ex-glamour model Katie Price (AKA Jordan) Ms Casey's services have also been used by the likes of the Saturdays' Una Healy and Robbie Keane's wife, Claudine Keane. Casey has had a boutique off Dublin's Dame Street for over a decade where customers include Miriam O'Callaghan and Sharon Ni Bheolain.

Having petitioned the High court in London for bankruptcy on July 17, 2012 where she has a shop in Chiswick, Ms Casey was declared bankrupt two months later.

Bernard McNamara

Before it all came crashing down, the former Fianna Fail councillor turned developer was the man who appeared to have it all. From his 10,000 square foot mansion on Dublin's Ailesbury Road to his holiday homes in Marbella and New York, Bernard McNamara was widely acknowledged as one of Ireland's most successful businessmen.

The foundations of the Clare-born developer's massive bricks-and-mortar empire, which stretched across the country, were found to be built on sand, however, when the credit crunch hit home in 2008, leaving him sitting atop a precarious pile of bank debt which amounted to an eye-watering €1.5bn.

Today, McNamara lives in leafy Chiswick, London – albeit temporarily – and works as a property consultant with his son Michael while waiting for his one-year term of bankruptcy to expire.

Ray Grehan

He's the Galway-born developer who famously paid €171.5m for the Vet's College site in Ballsbridge at the height of the boom.

Today, the land for which Ray Grehan splashed out a record €84m an acre is up for sale again while the former Glenkerrin Homes chief is already far away seeking out fresh opportunities and a fresh fortune in Africa to replace the one he lost here so spectacularly in the crash.

Never one to say die or to admit defeat, Mr Grehan certainly didn't waste any time in getting back on his feet following his discharge from bankruptcy in the UK last December 30. Within three months of walking away from the €300m debt for which Nama had obtained a judgment against him in Dublin's High Court in 2011, the Kilkerrin native had a new company, Montane Developments, up and running

Paddy Shovlin

Famed for his love of Ferraris and helicopters during the boom, the Landmark Enterprises chief ended up leaving an appalling blot on the south Dublin landscape.

While it's been left to Nama to pick up the pieces and flesh out the skeleton of the building he left behind at the Beacon South Quarter, Shovlin himself is already enjoying a new lease of life, having been discharged from bankruptcy in London last Wednesday after just 12 months.

Armed with a clean bill of financial health, Mr Shovlin is now effectively free of hundreds of millions of debt he and co-directors in Landmark, Tony and Pat Fitzpatrick, amassed on foot of their €500m plan to make the Beacon a "world showcase nationally and internationally".

Sean Dunne

As the man who earned the title during the boom of "Baron of Ballsbridge" for his audacious bid to redevelop the former Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels and bring a piece of Knightsbridge to Dublin 4, the Carlow-born developer's bid now for bankruptcy in the US state of Connecticut has seen him come in for heavy criticism here at home.

With debts approaching €1bn and no sign that he will ever be in a position to repay them, Mr Dunne's relocation to America has seen him draw the ire of his numerous creditors, with both Nama and the Ulster Bank chasing him through the courts with an almost missionary zeal.

Not that the developer has been cowed by his pursuers. Indeed, fresh from declaring bankruptcy on the night of March 29, Dunne took to the pages of the Sunday Independent, declaring that: "I have paid close on €100m in personal taxes to the Irish State, outside of company taxes and the substantial levies. I estimate that I employed over 200 people annually over a 25-year period in the Irish economy and contributed €250m to the Irish Exchequer. Therefore, I am personally happy that my debt to the Irish State is clear."

Ivan Yates

The former bookmaker and radio presenter was officially declared bankrupt by a court in Swansea in Wales on August 24, 2012.

Mr Yates, a former Minister for Agriculture ,was chairman and managing director of Celtic Bookmakers and grew the firm from its Wexford base to a chain of 64 shops around the country at its peak.

It was announced on 4 January, 2011 that the company had gone into receivership. Early the following year, Mr Yates said he was stepping down from his burgeoning career as a current affairs presenter to concentrate on tackling his financial difficulties.

He moved to Wales ,where he was declared bankrupt. It is thought he is working on a book and is considering a return to broadcasting when he is discharged from bankruptcy.

Sunday Independent

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