High-profile restaurateur Ronan Ryan is to press ahead with a bid to save his home and have €634,000 in debts written off after securing a significant legal victory over a vulture fund.
The High Court yesterday allowed an appeal by Mr Ryan (49), husband of television presenter and former Miss Ireland Pamela Flood (48), against a Circuit Court order permitting Tanager to repossess the couple's Dublin home.
While the vulture fund is planning a second appeal, the decision gives the celebrity couple fresh hope they can hang on to the property.
The fund moved earlier this year to repossess the home over a €1.2m mortgage debt and claimed Mr Ryan didn't make repayments for nine years. But the restaurateur says he didn't have to under an agreement with his then lender, Bank of Scotland (Ireland) to sell the property.
As result of the ruling by Mr Justice Garrett Simons yesterday, the couple and their four minor children no longer face an immediate threat of repossession - and Mr Ryan can now seek court approval for a proposal to deal with his debts.
The former operator of Town Bar and Grill in Dublin wants to keep his family home and get a writedown of €634,000 on his overall debts of €1.6m under a plan put forward by personal insolvency practitioner James Green.
Although the proposal has been rejected by Tanager, Mr Ryan can still seek Circuit Court approval for the personal insolvency arrangement.
He has pledged to repay the remaining debt of close to €1m over the next 22 years if the arrangement is approved.
The Circuit Court is likely to consider the proposal later this year or early in 2020.
Yesterday's ruling centred on whether Mr Ryan was entitled to avail of a protective certificate, a document which offers a debtor and their assets protection from legal proceedings by creditors while they are applying for a personal insolvency arrangement.
Mr Ryan had consented last March to an order for possession and the house on Mount Prospect Avenue in Clontarf was supposed to have been handed over by July 9.
However, he would later claim he had not been aware of his options at the time he consented to the order.
Mr Ryan instituted proceedings under the Personal Insolvency Act, obtaining a protective certificate in the Circuit Court on June 25.
But a different Circuit Court judge ruled Tanager could still move to repossess the property, after hearing Mr Ryan did not disclose the existence of the possession order when he applied for the protective certificate.
In a High Court appeal hearing last month, Tanager's counsel Rudi Neuman claimed Mr Ryan had engaged in an abuse of process.
He argued Mr Ryan's failure to disclose the existence of the possession order breached the duty of candour the restaurateur owed the court.
However, Mr Ryan's counsel Keith Farry argued there had been no material non-disclosure and, notwithstanding the existence of the possession order, the debtor met the eligibility criteria for a protective certificate.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Simons said the principal relief sought in the appeal was for Tanager to be allowed to enforce the possession order and exercise its power to sell the house, despite the existence of the protective certificate.
But the judge said it would not be appropriate to grant the relief sought by the fund.
"Whereas it is unsatisfactory that the information provided at the time of the application for the protective certificate did not disclose the existence of the order for possession, the omission does not constitute a material non-disclosure," the judge found.
"Even if the existence of the order for possession had been disclosed, as it should have been, this would not have affected the outcome of the application for a protective certificate.
"The debtor met the eligibility criteria under Section 91 of the Personal Insolvency Act in any event."
Mr Justice Simons also said it would be "disproportionate to the gravity of the non-disclosure" to sanction Mr Ryan by allowing to Tanager enforce the possession order.
The judge said to do so would have been inconsistent with one of the underlying objectives of the Personal Insolvency Act, which makes special provision for a debtor's principal private residence and allows for a court to approve measures to keep someone in their home.
At first glance, restaurateur Ronan Ryan's decision to do a U-turn on a deal to surrender his family home to a vulture fund looked like an audacious move. Instead of handing over the keys as promised, proposals were put forward that would see him and his wife, former Miss Ireland Pamela Flood, keep their Dublin home.