Tuesday 12 December 2017

Tony O’Reilly gets protection from his creditors as Bahamas court declares him bankrupt

Tony O'Reilly
Tony O'Reilly
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Sir Anthony O’Reilly has been declared bankrupt by a court in the Bahamas.

The Supreme Court in Nassau approved an application by lawyers for the 79-year-old businessman to get bankruptcy protection under Bahamian insolvency legislation.

O’Reilly, formerly the major shareholder in Independent News & Media, is tax-resident in the Bahamas and has kept a home there since the 1990s.

The court approved the application despite opposition from AIB.

The decision brings to an end a turbulent period for Mr O’Reilly, who still owes creditors millions of euro despite selling off many of his prized assets, including his home, Castlemartin in Co Kildare, which was sold to US media mogul John Malone last year for €28m.

It offers him a level of protection from his creditors.

Void

As a result of the decision, previous arrangements and agreements made with creditors in the recent past are considered null and void.

A trustee will now be appointed to manage Mr O’Reilly’s assets and affairs.

Mr O’Reilly was not in court for the hearing at the Bahamas Supreme Court in Nassau.

His lawyer, John Delaney QC, told Justice Milton Evans his client rejected claims by AIB that he had not followed the guidelines for the filing of the application.

Mr Delaney said the guidelines “were followed to the T”, save for registering his client’s notion of motion with the Bahamas Supreme Court registrar.

He told the judge that AIB was the only one of Mr O’Reilly unsecured creditors who was disputing the issue.

The court heard Mr O’Reilly filed a notice motion for a petition for bankruptcy pursuant to section 97 of the Bahamas Bankruptcy Act.

The application was made following meetings with creditors, the court heard.

As part of the application, Mr O’Reilly sought protection of his property from being accessed or seized, and the approval

of a composition with creditors for an “extraordinary resolution”.

Mr O’Reilly had also sought for the bankruptcy protection to extend to the US and Ireland.

Earlier, Sophia Rolle, one of three lawyers representing AIB, unsuccessfully pressed Justice Evans to strike out the original and amended petitions of Mr O’Reilly on the basis that the proceedings were not properly placed before the court and lacked inherent jurisdiction.

A full written ruling by Justice Evans will be published on Tuesday.

The ruling is the latest chapter in the stunning downfall of Mr O’Reilly, who was previously  one of Ireland’s richest men and is thought to have been the country’s first billionaire.

The former rugby international had a stellar career in business, becoming chief executive and later chairman of the Heinz Group and a newspaper magnate.

Until recent years, he was the major shareholder at Independent News and Media, but lost out in a lengthy boardroom battle with telecoms billionaire Denis O’Brien.

His financial fortunes went into decline in recent years and AIB secured a judgement for €22.5m against him in June of last year.

Assets

The bank subsequently demanded that Mr O’Reilly disclose more information about his assets.

Following some asset sales, the Irish courts were told Mr O’Reilly still owed AIB around €15m.

O’Reilly’s fortunes dipped coincided with the share price of Independent News & Media collapsing.

He also lost a fortune trying to rescue Waterford Wedgewood, a company specialising in manufacturing china, porcelain and glass, where he was the leading shareholder.

Irish Independent

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