Wednesday 22 November 2017

Developer's bankruptcy exit halted by UK courts

Tony Fitzpatrick was just four days away from debt freedom when challenged

Tony Fitzpatrick
Tony Fitzpatrick
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

EFFORTS by one of Ireland's leading property developers to make a fresh financial start in the UK have been put on hold by the High Court in London following a challenge from his bankruptcy trustee.

Tony Fitzpatrick – a former co-director with his brother Pat Fitzpatrick and Paddy Shovlin in Landmark Enterprises – had been on track to be discharged from bankruptcy on May 28 last after moving to London and seeing out the 12 months required under the UK's more lenient personal insolvency regime.

That target date has come and gone, however, after a decision by Mr Fitzpatrick's bankruptcy trustee, Tina Bullock, just four days earlier on May 24, to ask the High Court to suspend his discharge date indefinitely.

While the reasons behind Ms Bullock's eleventh-hour intervention are unknown, the fact that the court granted the application under Section 279(3) of the UK's 1986 Insolvency Act suggests that she is of the view that Mr Fitzpatrick has at least failed to co-operate with her during the period of his bankruptcy.

The Sunday Independent understands that the matter is due back before the High Court next month for a full hearing, during which it will be up to the trustee to provide evidence to support any suspicions she may have in relation to Mr Fitzpatrick's compliance or otherwise with the conditions of his bankruptcy during the past 12 months.

Prior to bringing Tony Fitzpatrick's case to the court's attention, Ms Bullock had applied for, and was granted permission, on March 19 last to have the discharge from bankruptcy of his brother, Pat Fitzpatrick, suspended.

Her intervention in that case came just three weeks out from the end of Pat Fitzpatrick's year-long term of personal insolvency.

While the bids of both Fitzpatrick brothers to secure a clean bill of financial health may be in limbo, their former co-director at Landmark, Paddy Shovlin, encountered no such difficulty in coming out the other side of the UK's bankruptcy regime.

Mr Shovlin got to walk away from his multi-million-euro debts on May 29 last after 12 months during which he lived in an €8,000-a-month, concierge-serviced apartment in the exclusive Chelsea area of London, while trading as a property consultant at World's End Studios – a serviced office building nearby.

Prior to their relocation to the UK and prior to the crash, Mr Shovlin and the Fitzpatrick brothers were best known for their hugely ambitious plans for the Beacon South Quarter in Sandyford, Dublin.

Conceived at the height of the boom, the proposed €500m development had been intended by the Landmark chiefs to be a "world showcase nationally and internationally".

Unsurprisingly, that vision was left unrealised thanks to the onset of the domestic and wider global financial crisis in 2007.

In October 2010, Mr Shovlin and his partners achieved the unhappy distinction of being the first developers against whom Nama secured orders in the Commercial Court for the repayment of debt.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly granted Nama judgments of €25m against Mr Shovlin and €22m each against both Pat and Tony Fitzpatrick on foot of personal guarantees they had given on a €277.6m refinancing loan from Bank of Ireland for the Beacon South Quarter development.

Nama has recently taken on responsibility for finishing off that development.

Irish Independent

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