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Friday 23 March 2018

'I gave Gayle €100m for her love and affection'

'She washed the odd shirt too,' developer Sean Dunne tells bankruptcy hearing

Sean Dunne at court, inset the couple
Sean Dunne at court, inset the couple
Gayle Killilea Dunne and Sean Dunne
Sean Dunne and wife Gayle Killilea
Sean Dunne enters the U.S. Bankruptcy Federal building in New Haven yesterday. Photo: Douglas Healey

DEVELOPER Sean Dunne gave wife Gayle Killilea €100m in 2005 in return for her "love and affection", he told US bankruptcy proceedings.

He also got children, a happy marriage and his wife washed "the odd shirt".

The agreement was drawn up on a trip to Thailand in 2005 a year after their wedding, celebrated on Aristotle Onassis's former yacht, and the birth of their first child.

Ms Killilea wanted to be financially independent but had dismissed the idea of a pre-nuptial agreement. During the holiday, they discussed the arrangement and then wrote it down.

Mr Dunne was being asked about whether he had ever been involved in separation proceedings with his current wife, Ms Killilea, when he said they had drawn up an agreement in 2005.

He said he had struck a deal worth one-fifth of his assets at the time, estimated to be €500m.

"My only regret is that I didn't gift her more," Mr Dunne told NAMA lawyer Tom Curran, as he faced questions at a meeting in Connecticut.

Mr Dunne insisted that due to his level of assets at the time, suggesting he wasn't in a position to gift to his wife in such a manner was "pure bunkum".

He was appearing at a meeting in New Haven, Connecticut, to face his creditors.

It emerged that the person listed as 'Creditor A' on his bankruptcy filings with debts of $44m (€33m) is his wife Gayle Killilea.

Mr Dunne also confirmed that creditor B on filings with debts of €2.3m was his first wife, Jennifer Coyle.

Wearing a three-piece navy suit and pale blue striped tie Mr Dunne appeared relaxed as NAMA, Ulster Bank and the bankruptcy trustee sifted through his complex financial dealings. NAMA is challenging Mr Dunne's discharge from debt, alleging that he fraudulently transferred assets to his wife, Ms Killilea.

Despite a US Court order to answer questions in connection with the family legal proceedings brought in an Irish court, his legal team objected to all questioning in connection with the matter -- citing Swiss law and an ongoing Irish Supreme Court challenge.

NAMA representative Tom Curran probed the developer, asking: "Was the Swiss court proceeding a divorce?" and "Were you ever involved in separation proceedings with your current wife?"

When asked if the Swiss judgment was the basis for Gayle Killilea Dunne being listed as a creditor, Mr Dunne replied: "It would be, yes."

However, Mr Dunne and his legal team left the room and when they returned he told trustee Richard Coan that the debt is the result of the agreement between him and his wife drawn up in Thailand.


The 59-year-old said the pair travelled to the country a year after their marriage and following the birth of their first child, on a trip that was prompted by the death of Gayle's best friend in the 2004 tsunami.

The deal came about because the former gossip columnist wanted to be financially independent, and had dismissed the idea of a pre-nuptial agreement.

The pair discussed the arrangement during the holiday, and one day Ms Killilea said: "Let's write it down."

Out of a 'large pool of assets' the developer agreed that he would transfer 70pc of the profits of six assets. The developer deemed the deal to be worth in the region of 20pc of his net value at the time, which he estimated to be €500m.

When quizzed by NAMA on what he received in return, Mr Dunne said: "Love and affection and children," and "having a happy marriage, cooking the odd meal, washing the odd shirt . . . the very odd one."

Further assets were transferred to Ms Dunne in 2008 as an addendum to the agreement, including monies owed to Mr Dunne by his former company Mountbrook and shares in the Lagoon Beach hotel in South Africa.

The bust builder, who has debts of €691m, also faced questions from the bankruptcy trustee on his involvement with Travatia Ltd and the house on the grounds of the K Club at the centre of ongoing Irish court proceedings.


The Carlow-born business man admitted spending two or three days at the property three times this year, but insisted after exhaustive questioning that he had no connection with the Isle of Man company that owns the luxury home.

Mr Dunne, who filed for bankruptcy in the US in March, claims he hasn't lived in Ireland since January 2007.

Earlier yesterday, the High Court in Dublin heard how Mr Dunne fears he will be arrested if he travels to Ireland to visit his mother and daughter.

Mr Dunne asked the court to order the official handling his bankruptcy to provide reassurances that he wouldn't be arrested as an "absconding bankrupt".

He has failed to get High Court orders preventing continuing steps here to realise his assets for his creditors, including NAMA.

High Court judge Mr Justice Brian McGovern refused his request to direct the court-appointed official administering the bankruptcy, Chris Lehane, to provide assurances Mr Dunne would not be arrested here as an absconding bankrupt. Mr Lehane, known as the official assignee, cannot procure any arrest without a court order and regarded any such step as "a last resort", the judge noted.


The bankruptcy battle intensified yesterday when Mr Lehane complained Mr Dunne is "ignoring" his Irish bankruptcy and had not attended for interview with the assignee or provided a statement of affairs.

The Irish bankruptcy was initiated by Ulster Bank last February over default on loans for some €161m issued to buy properties in Dublin. Mr Dunne filed for bankruptcy in the US the following month when he claimed to have debts of $1bn and assets of $55m. In July, he was adjudicated bankrupt here.

The developer was also quizzed on his involvement with Mountbrook USA, the construction firm owned by wife Gayle.

The 59-year-old earned a salary of $100,000 from the firm through three instalments over the past year including a cheque this week for $60,000.

Ms Killilea -- along with his son -- are currently in the process of developing a vacant lot in the exclusive area of Soho in Manhattan owned by one of Ms Dunne's companies.

The plot was acquired for just under $5m and planning permission is being sought to develop four condos (apartments), he told NAMA lawyers.

Mr Dunne acknowledged that he was part of the acquisition of the site and 'would talk to brokers on a regular basis.'

Ms Killilea is also developing a plot that is sale agreed for $3.3m in the exclusive suburb of Greenwich Connecticut.

By Orlaith Farrell, Tim Healy and Dearbhail McDonald

Irish Independent

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