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Dragons' Den star being chased for €36,500 debt

The Blacktie chain of dress hire shops owned by 'Dragons' Den' star Niall O'Farrell is being chased by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) for debts of €36,500.

The debt relates to unpaid rent and service charges at one of his shops in the docklands on property owned by the development authority.

It concerns the high-end men's clothing shop Henry Jermyn at the CHQ shopping centre, which is close to the IFSC. Mr O'Farrell's Irish Clothiers Holding firm owns both Blacktie and Jermyn Street.

It is not clear for what period the money is owed -- but the store opened in 2007 after the economy had already turned sour.

The DDDA confirmed yesterday it had filed a judgment against Mr O'Farrell's Blacktie chain of stores on October 13 in a bid to retrieve the money.

Businessman Mr O'Farrell, who regularly appears on RTE's Dragons' Den, where budding entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas for investment, told the Irish Independent yesterday that the debt would be repaid in full.

But he accused the DDDA of pulling a "publicity stunt" by registering the judgment against his high-profile Blacktie brand rather than the lesser known firm that owns Henry Jermyn.

"The judgment should have been filed against Jermyn Street, another company which owns Henry Jermyn. Registering a judgement against Blacktie is just looking for publicity," he said.

A spokesperson for the agency said the DDDA had no choice but to chase the debt.

"The authority is committed to delivering the highest quality of governance and financial management.

"That includes the collection of outstanding debts from investment properties such as the CHQ building."

According to the latest available accounts for Mr O'Farrell's Irish Clothiers Holding firm, the company returned to profit late last year after reporting losses of €2.7m for the 15-month period up to June 2009.

In the same period, the company reported sales of €8m.

The return to profit comes after a major restructuring of the Blacktie business following the collapse in consumer spending since the onset of the recession.

As a result, the company closed three Blacktie branches -- in Dublin's Dawson Street, in Blackrock, Co Dublin, and in Drogheda, Co Louth -- and halved its staff to just above 50.

The firm has also moved to a franchise model, which has seen the company setting up concessions with independent men's stores rather than operating stand-alone shops.

Last year, Mr O'Farrell put his Shrewsbury Road house up for sale with an asking price of €14m.

However, Thorndene, a Victorian-style, seven-bed house on half an acre of landscaped gardens, has not yet been sold.

Irish Independent