Monday 23 October 2017

O'Donnell finds bankruptcy a 'chastening experience'

Shane Hickey London

SOLICITOR and property developer Brian O'Donnell has described his bankruptcy proceedings as a "very, very chastening experience" which has effectively ended his 30-year career and been "shattering" for everyone involved.

The businessman, who is trying to have his bankruptcy declared in Britain, yesterday delivered a sharp broadside against Bank of Ireland and criticised how the bank – to which they owe €71m – dealt with his properties.

Mr O'Donnell and his wife Mary Pat say their centre of main interest (COMI) is in London and they should be allowed to declare bankruptcy there, a bid which is being contested by Bank of Ireland, which wants them bankrupted in Ireland.

On his final day of evidence in the London high court yesterday, Mr O'Donnell said they had felt "hounded" out of Ireland as a result of the actions of the bank.

The couple, who once held a property portfolio worth in excess of €1bn, had been courted by the bank in 2006, he said, and encouraged to provide more business, with staff making presentations about opportunities in places such as Atlanta.

Ireland was now a "wasteland", Mr O'Donnell said, where all the banks did was "fill the ATMs".

He claimed Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher, and Des Hanrahan, a director of the bank's specialist property group, did not listen when the O'Donnells put proposals to them over their case.

Mr O'Donnell said the wrong thing to do had been to put the properties into receivership or create a situation where they would become distressed and go down in value.

He and his wife had left Ireland as they felt nothing further could be done in their position which was described as "intolerable and unrelenting" as a result of a "vindictive and vituperative" situation.

The couple claim they have been operating out of London since 2005 and spent the past four out of five Christmases there.

Under Irish law, bankruptcy can take up to 12 years to be completed, while in the UK it can take as little as 12 months.

"I never thought I would be in this position," Mr O'Donnell told the court, saying it was a "very, very chastening" experience and had effectively ended a 30-year career which was "shattering" for everyone.

He said he did not know what his future held but claimed himself to be an optimist and hoped to act as a property consultant.

Their base in London, on Barton Street near Westminster, is currently up for sale and Mr O'Donnell said they would try and rent a home in the same area for between £3,000 (€3,700) and £4,000 (€4,950) a month.

Mr O'Donnell said he had some consultancy income. If they could not afford such rent, they would downsize further, Mr O'Donnell said.

Mary Pat O'Donnell is due to give evidence in the case on Monday afternoon in the continuing hearing.

Irish Independent

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