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Quinn might be gone but huge imprint will be harder to remove

SEAN Quinn is known for a lot of things in the outside world, but in the bubble that is the Quinn group of companies, loyalty is the most common attribute mentioned by customers and staff alike.

Over almost four decades of business, the entrepreneur built up a trusted band of lieutenants who ensured that the Quinn ethos was stamped across every corner of the group.

And he built up a rapport with trading partners that motivated hundreds of them to assemble into the Concerned Irish Business lobby group that battled to keep Mr Quinn's empire intact.

With the change of control at Fortress Quinn, that old order is to be broken. Mr Quinn himself, an iconic figure in Cavan and its environs, is to have no future role in the group be built from the bottom up.

Quinn Group chief executive Liam McCaffrey, one of Mr Quinn's longtime aides, is being replaced by Paul O'Brien, who joined Quinn Group's board as a non-executive director back in November.

Mr O'Brien has the credentials on paper to deal with many aspects of the Quinn Group's multi-faceted business -- he was recently chief executive of a Belgian hotel operator, and also spent 10 years as finance boss in technology, manufacturing and medical companies.

But for the time being at least, some staff and some customers will look at the newcomer and see only one thing -- a man who isn't their beloved Sean Quinn.

New expertise is also headed for other areas of the Quinn business.

The insurance arm is set to be buoyed by at least three senior appointments from US insurance giant Liberty Mutual, Anglo Irish Bank's partner in the Quinn Insurance Limited takeover.

Non-executive directors from outside of Liberty are also expected to be signed up, in the interests of good corporate governance.


Anglo Irish Bank's receiver, KPMG insolvency expert Kieran Wallace, has already begun installing non-executive directors across key areas of the Quinn group.

Maldron Hotels boss Pat McCann has been tapped to join the board of Quinn's hotel and leisure arm. KPMG Ireland executive Robert Dix is headed for the board of Quinn Property.

Other non-executives being lined up for Quinn entities include Frank O'Riordan of accountancy firm A&L Goodbody, retired KPMG partner Ray Jackson and Timothy Quinn, formerly of legal firm Matheson Ormsby Prentice.

As well as having to win over Sean Quinn loyalists, the new gang in town could also have to contend with Sean Quinn's offspring, several of whom are still employed by various group companies.

Legally they can't be forced out just because their family is no longer the group's beneficial owner. A spokesman for the family last night declined to comment on the Quinn children's plans.

Sean Quinn may be gone from the Quinn Group, but his imprint could be a lot tougher to remove.

Irish Independent