Monday 18 December 2017

Pia Bang Stokes - we are happy and relieved it's all over

Relief: Pia Bang Stokes says the family, including Christian and Simon Stokes, now want to move on with their lives. Photo: David Conachy
Relief: Pia Bang Stokes says the family, including Christian and Simon Stokes, now want to move on with their lives. Photo: David Conachy
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Pia Bang Stokes, the matriarch of the Stokes family, has spoken for the first time following the family's high-profile High Court battle over debt owed by her and her husband, Jeffrey Stokes.

The businesswoman and interior designer was speaking after the couple came to an agreement with Dunbar Assets, formerly Zurich Bank, over their €12m debts.

As part of the settlement, the couple avoided bankruptcy and had the debt written off in exchange for a one-off payment of €145,000. They can also keep their €800,000 home.

The bulk of that money will go to Dunbar Assets, which is owed almost €9m, and to Revenue.

This weekend, Ms Bang said: "We are very relieved and very happy it is all over."

She said: "The €12m property portfolio was handed over and Dunbar subsequently sold all of the properties and then €5m was left to write down. Dunbar bank received €145,000 but we paid €290,000 when you include fees and creditors."

Christian and Simon Stokes
Christian and Simon Stokes

Describing the past few years as "incredibly tough on all our family", she said: "A lot has been said in the media but only a handful of our good friends know the real story and I am grateful for them to have been there for us through this.

"We now just want to move on with our lives."

Meanwhile, her son Christian Stokes told the Sunday Independent that he and his brother Simon are also trying to move on with the next chapter.

"My case finished last year so my parents' case is separate," he said.

"We have been through some very dark times, as have many other families, and we have been working hard and trying to get on with our lives."

Christian added that he is now pursuing a new career in aviation, with the company Surfair.

Termed 'the Netflix of air travel', the company offers an 'all-you-can-fly' membership model, meaning members can skip queues and travel flexibly on executive jets.

His brother Simon is now operating two successful salad bars in Baggot Street and the IFSC in Dublin.

During the Celtic Tiger years, the family was the toast of Dublin's social scene.

Jeff Stokes ran the fashionable Unicorn restaurant at Merrion Row in Dublin, before becoming the landlord to Giorgio Casari, who fronted the eatery for 15 years before its golden age came to an end.

During that time it attracted clients such as Tony Blair, Gerry Adams, Seamus Heaney, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson and his late wife, Natasha Richardson, colourful property developer Johnny Ronan and the late Gerry Ryan.

Former US president Bill Clinton frequently visited the restaurant. On his last visit, Bono had a pint of Guinness and a packet of crisps waiting at his table.

In 2014, Christian and Simon Stokes, as well as their parents Jeffrey and Pia, consented to a €14.7m judgment being entered against them arising from various loans and guarantees.

Two years previous, the High Court had ruled the brothers could not be company directors until 2016 arising out of their involvement in the Residence private member's club. At the height of their fame, the Stokes brothers ran the club on St Stephen's Green.

With an annual membership fee of €850, the property was owned by developer Johnny Ronan and attracted regular patrons such as Bono, Neil Jordan, Rory McIlroy, Jonathan Rhys-Myers and The Corrs, plus household names from the world of business and sport.

Simon Stokes was unavailable for comment.

Sunday Independent

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