Thursday 19 September 2019

'Unbelievable deal' - Frank McNamara and Theresa Lowe to have €2.9m in debt written off

Musician Frank McNamara and his wife, barrister Theresa Lowe.
Musician Frank McNamara and his wife, barrister Theresa Lowe.
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Musician Frank McNamara and his barrister wife Theresa Lowe will have millions of euro in debts written off after a High Court judge found in their favour.

In total €2.9m will be written off.

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This is made up of €2m off the home mortgage and €900,000 in unsecured debts.

The victory for the couple over a vulture fund will mean the value of their home will be radically written down and they will repay what is left at a tracker mortgage rate of 1pc.

One legal source described it as “an unbelievable deal”.

The couple had gone to court over the refusal of the Tanager fund to agree to a personal insolvency deal (PIA).

High Court judge Mr Justice Denis McDonald found in favour of the couple, subject to clarifications being provided regarding an inheritance.

They had sought court approval for an arrangement to assist them in dealing with debts of €3.7m.

The couple’s lawyer Keith Farry BL had urged the court to approve the arrangement, while it was opposed by the main creditor, Tanager DAC.

Tanager had bought their debts from Bank of Scotland (Ireland), and was owed €2.3m.

Mr McNamara (59) worked as musical director on the ‘Late Late Show’ for 20 years, while Ms Lowe (56) presented ‘Where In The World?’ on TV before qualifying as a barrister.

The court had been told the couple first experienced financial difficulties in the early 2000s when Mr McNamara was unable to collect music royalties owed to him. They re-mortgaged properties and sold others in an attempt to escape what they saw as temporary financial difficulties.

The main asset is their home in Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, which they say is worth half-a-million euro but on which they owed almost €2.3m, according to the written judgement. The couple also owes €550,000 to Bank of Ireland, with money owed to Belvedere College, Permanent TSB, Cabot Financial, First Citizen, and the Revenue Commissioners.

Personal insolvency practitioner James Green of McCambridge Duffy proposed writing €1.7m off the €2.3m mortgage on their Dunshaughlin home.

The couple proposed handing over an inheritance of €182,500 and a lump sum of €25,000, mostly to Tanager. Mr McNamara also cashed in a pension. Revenue will be paid as part of the deal.

The judge noted creditors would get less money if the couple was declared bankrupt.

Tanager objected on a number of technical grounds and argued the duration of the deal was uncertain which rendered it “fundamentally flawed”.

The judge agreed with the arguments put by Mr Farry that the family home mortgage should be written down.

It “is a very significant write-down in absolute terms”, but was justified on the basis of the current value of the home and the means of the couple. Mr Justice McDonald said Tanager would “not be unfairly prejudiced by the proposals”.

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