Sunday 15 December 2019

Tiger poster boy Simon Stokes overstated income, tribunal told

Simon and Christian Stokes outside their unfair dismissal
hearing in Dublin yesterday
Simon and Christian Stokes outside their unfair dismissal hearing in Dublin yesterday
Simon and Christian Stoke' former employer Olivia Gaynor Long

Colm Kelpie

BOOM-era restaurateur Simon Stokes was yesterday accused of overstating the amount of lost earnings after he and his brother were dismissed by the new owners of their former celebrity haunt.

Simon Stokes and his brother Christian Stokes were once regarded as the poster boys for the Celtic Tiger era and ran the high-end Residence Club on Dublin's St Stephen's Green.

They are seeking compensation for unfair dismissal from the new owners, Molana Ltd.

The company, controlled by businesswoman Olivia Gaynor Long, bought Residence from a receiver in the summer of 2010.

Molana claims the twins were hired on a consultancy contract, to work as interim managers during a transition period.

But the brothers argued they were hired as employees.

Imogen McGrath, for the Stokes twins, told the Employment Appeals Tribunal that the total earnings for Simon Stokes between his dismissal in mid-September 2010 and April 1, 2012, was €69,332.35.

Yet she claimed that in two years with Molana he would have earned €132,132.

But Paul Fogarty, for Molana, said Simon Stokes had received roughly €13,000 in bonuses since the beginning of this year for work in his father's restaurant, Il Segreto, on Dublin's Merrion Row. This included a payout of more than €10,000 just after Christmas.

Simon Stokes accepted that bonus figures were left out of the information provided to the tribunal, which he said had been compiled with his lawyer's advice.

But the restaurateur said bonuses could vary considerably, and at times were not paid at all.

The exclusive club was seized by the banks and put into receivership in January 2010 by the High Court which refused to extend court protection to Missford Ltd, a holding company set up by the brothers.

The twins stated Christian Stokes approached Ms Gaynor Long and her husband to become investors in early January 2010.

But they alleged that Ms Gaynor Long bought the business, and then presented the pair with a resignation letter and subsequently an agreement to take them on as consultants.


The consultancy contract paid the twins €1,000 a week plus €50 in expenses

The twins told the tribunal they were shocked at the resignation letter, but felt coerced into signing it and taking the consultancy agreement. They accepted they had taken legal advice before signing.

"We were kind of backs to the wall. I was a little bit apprehensive to sign something like that . . . but didn't think anything untoward," Christian Stokes told the tribunal.

"My wife was going on maternity leave. It was very tight for us.

"It was forced upon us and the terms were a shock to me."

Simon said they were originally not entitled to any paid holidays, but they were later permitted four weeks' holiday time with pay.

"Effectively, I would just be working for 52 weeks and not getting a holiday. I couldn't afford not to work, because I wasn't getting paid for it," Simon said.

The pair recalled how, on September 9, 2010, they were called into a meeting with Ms Gaynor Long and another man.

The twins claimed that at the meeting Ms Gaynor Long said she wanted to take the club in a different direction.

The hearing continues today.

Irish Independent

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