Monday 20 January 2020

Bill Cullen agrees to €8m judgment over unpaid loans

Bill Cullen has consented to a €8.2m judgment.
Bill Cullen has consented to a €8.2m judgment.

Tim Healy

WELL-known car dealer Bill Cullen has consented to a €8.2m judgment being entered against him at the Commercial Court over unpaid loans to Danske Bank.

Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan entered summary judgment in that amount yesterday against Mr Cullen, Osberstown House, Sallins, Co Kildare.

Counsel for Mr Cullen said he was consenting to judgment and it was anticipated a planned sale of property would reduce the judgment sum.

The court heard three unsuccessful attempts had been made to serve legal proceedings on Mr Cullen at his Sallins home last month before the bank got leave to serve the legal documents by post.

Osberstown House is surrounded by a wall and has electric access gates with an intercom, a summons server said in an affidavit. When he first tried to effect service about 7pm on one Tuesday, there was no response when he rang the intercom.

On the second attempt next morning, the intercom was answered initially by a woman who kept saying she could not hear him. When he rang again, the intercom was answered by a man who he believed to be Mr Cullen as he was familiar with his voice from television but who also kept saying he could not hear.

The following morning, he again went to the house and the intercom was answered by a woman and the gates opened. He drove in and spoke to a woman, who said she was the housekeeper, at the front door.

When he asked to speak to Mr Cullen, the woman, after checking inside, said Mr Cullen was in a meeting and could not be disturbed, he said. The server said it was important and a man came out shortly afterwards and said Mr Cullen was sick and would not be coming out.

Counsel for the bank told the court yesterday a receiver had been appointed over secured properties and Mr Cullen would be entitled to proceeds from them but that matter was "for another day".

The case arose from a €8.1m loan advanced to Mr Cullen in April 2011 to restructure an existing loan. The April 2011 facility was to be repaid in full by April 2012 via quarterly instalments but the bank claimed no repayments were made by Mr Cullen since November 2011.

The bank said it tried to work with Mr Cullen since February 2012 to achieve a solution but issued the proceedings last month after it became clear a negotiated restructuring of Mr Cullen's obligations would not be possible.

Danske's application also came after receivers were appointed by Ulster Bank last month over Mr Cullen’s Glencullen Holdings, which operates car dealerships in Swords and Liffey Valley in Dublin.

Ulster Bank is owed an estimated €12m. Mr Cullen himself is Glencullen's biggest creditor and is owed some €19.5m. Mr Cullen lost the Renault dealership last August, having held the national franchise from 1986 to 2007.

In its action, Danske said the €8.1m loan was secured by mortgages over the Antrim Arms guesthouse at Upper Drumcondra Road, Dublin and assignment of a lease on property at Upper Drumcondra Road with annual rental income of €180,000 to Citygate Motors Airside. Rental payments under the lease were guaranteed by Glencullen Holdings.

After the full loan went into arrears in April 2012, the bank issued formal demands for payment in June and again in October 2012. On October 10, the bank demanded payment of €8.2m and warned of proceedings. The next day, it appointed a receiver over the secured assets.

In an affidavit, Donal Scully of Danske Bank said he visited the secured properties in Drumcondra last August and it appeared tenants were in occupation and trading from those.

Given Mr Cullen's failure to pass on rental income, the bank decided to examine the possible appointment of a receiver, he said.

The bank also sought judgment due to concern the financial position of Mr Cullen had, or was about to, significantly worsen given the appointment of receivers over Glencullen Holdings, he said.

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