Saturday 18 November 2017

Builder fought until end to save jewel in crown

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THEY'RE not talking, but Camp McNamara is in shock.

Shocked at the speed at which NAMA moved to reject the once-stellar developer's business plans.

It was a rejection that led to the "voluntary" appointment of the first statutory receiver under the NAMA Act over Michael McNamara and Company.

The firm was founded by Bernard McNamara's father and became the jewel in the crown of his empire.

The appointment of statutory receiver Farrell Grant Sparks, whose appointment takes precedence over any other court actions, was voluntary in name only. In truth, the tenacious builder had fought it to the last.

Michael McNamara and Company was Mr McNamara's main hope for building his way back to recovery and he shielded it like a baby.

Earlier this year, when private clients of Davy Stockbrokers sought to get their hands on details of his shareholding in the family construction firm, the developer railed in protest and stepped down as its chief in order to protect the company from his personal woes.

Davy, who sued Mr McNamara personally on foot of the disastrous Irish Glass Bottle Site debacle, insisted he had extensive assets held personally as well as through Irish and offshore companies.

Much of that wealth, they suspected, was retained within Michael McNamara and Co.

If it was, NAMA -- which has the business plans of developers independently assessed by an external firm in London -- clearly felt that it did not retain enough wealth or prospects for survival.



Superpowers

Although Michael McNamara and Company was in robust health compared to most still-surviving construction firms and was working on several major contracts, its balance sheet was encumbered by unviable projects and inter-company loans to other entities within Bernard McNamara's empire.

NAMA feared that allowing it to trade while insolvent could lead to Pierse Construction-style allegations of reckless trading, a stance it could not afford -- even with its recently High Court-endorsed superpowers -- to tolerate.

Some developers feel that Mr McNamara, a former Fianna Fail councillor to boot, is being held up as a political example and NAMA is sending out a strong message that it will get tough on borrowers whose loans have contributed to a national as well as a geo-political crisis.

The developer class, with limited exceptions, have come to loathe NAMA and what they perceive to be its determination to annihilate them. Some are even considering bankruptcy to avoid dealing with the difficult process of being directly managed by the agency.

Others feel that perhaps Mr McNamara, who admitted he has debts of €1.5bn, had run out of road.

But NAMA, with its bird's eye view over his entire financial affairs, took a view that the day-to-day successful Michael McNamara and Company could not be divorced from other entities affected by massive debts.

The personal tragedy for Mr McNamara is compounded by the widespread job losses that will follow the near collapse of one of Ireland's most successful construction companies.

Irish Independent

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