Sunday 21 July 2019

Pub family's bitter feud comes back to haunt six sons

Coman's matriarch leaves entire €4m estate to six daughters

Mary Coman's will went into probate last week
Photo: Garrett White/Collins
Mary Coman's will went into probate last week Photo: Garrett White/Collins
Pub founder Mary Coman's will went to probate last week (stock photo)
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

There were echoes of a bitter family feud in the will of a wealthy Dublin publican which went to probate last week.

Mary Coman, founder with her late husband Pat of Coman's pub in Rathgar, left almost €4m in her will- but nothing to her six sons, five of whom were involved in a bitter dispute with their parents, which surfaced in the High Court.

"We have lost everything we valued, we have lost our fatherhood and motherhood," Mary Coman, mother of six sons and six daughters, told a court during the dispute.

Relations between the sons who ran the pub and bottling plant deteriorated as Pat Coman dipped into company funds to buy houses for his daughters. At a board meeting in 1997, it was decided that any money taken out by the elderly founder would be treated as an advance against future ownership of the pub.

This was followed in 1998 by Patrick and Mary Coman going to the High Court to have five of their six sons, Geoffrey, John, Patrick Jnr, Thomas and Denis, removed as directors. Their other son, William, and their daughters took no part in the legal dispute.

Despite mediation, no agreement could be reached when the parents' salaries were stopped until outstanding company loans of £1.25m were repaid, and the matter arrived back in the High Court in 2002. In, 2003, lawyers and accountants hammered out a deal that the five sons would pay their parents €7m for their 52pc.

The settlement, which Gerard Hogan SC later admitted was "a back of the envelope calculation", failed when Pat Coman later claimed it didn't include the 'bricks and mortar' of Coman's and demanded an additional €1.25m.

"I have been told they [the five sons] are going to starve us into submission. It was in the paper that we have a £4m house in Rathgar - we bought it for £6,000. We have no resources," Mary Coman told the High Court in 2003. "It is a terrible thing for a mother to look down and see we are outcasts in our own family."

After Judge Joe Finnegan warned both sides he "could make a decision that nobody can live with", the disputing parties retired for further talks and the action was finally settled, with Pat and Mary Coman signing over their interests in the family business to their sons. In her will, which was drawn up in 2008, Mary Coman, of Grosvenor Road, Rathgar, described as a company director, who died on the August 13, 2018, left estate valued at €3,919,686.

She left her house in equal shares to her daughters Monica, Ella and Elizabeth. They were each also left 25pc of the residue of the estate, with the remaining 25pc shared equally between her other daughters, Eugenia, Petrina and Paulina.

"I am satisfied I have made due and appropriate provision for each of my six sons through the interest I have given them in the family business and in various advancements I have given them in my lifetime," Mrs Coman said in her will.

Her words from beyond the grave are the final chapter of a sad saga that convulsed one of the best-known families in the Dublin pub trade.

Sunday Independent

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