Sunday 19 November 2017

Westlife singer's property firm goes into receivership

Anita Guidera and Donal O'Donovan

WESTLIFE star Shane Filan might be the man with the golden voice but when it comes to property development he does not have the Midas touch.

Last night, the property development career of the 'Flying Without Wings' singer hit a low with the appointment of receivers from KPMG to the building company he set up alongside his brother Finbarr in 2004.

The company, Shafin Developments, has been taken into receivership with bank debts of €5.5m. Ulster Bank appointed Galway-based accountant Patrick Horkan to take control of the company in recent days.

He has taken over assets including four residential properties and a partly developed site at Dromahair, in Co Leitrim, as well as a share of a site in Carraroe, Co Sligo.

Even after losing control of the assets the Filans are still on the hook for the debts because the loans were backed up by personal guarantees, according to documents filed with the Companies Registration Office.

It's the latest financial blow for the popstar who is also being chased through the courts by Bank of Ireland over unpaid property loans.

The singer relocated to Surrey with wife, Gillian and three children late last year and is planning to launch a solo career following the Westlife farewell tour later this year.

He is believed to have filed for an Individual Voluntary Arrangement with his creditors in London in a bid to avoid bankruptcy.

However, company records show the star still has an address in Sligo.

The first indications of looming trouble came when the 32 year old from Sligo sold his beloved James Bond 1964 Aston Martin in September 2011 for €398,000.

His explanation at the time was that he rarely got a chance to use the car which had been a gift to himself for his 30th birthday.

Filan dipped his toe into the property market in 2004 when he formed Shafin Developments with older brother, Finbarr, but from the get-go they were dogged by local objections and planning appeals.

They began work on a 90-unit housing estate in Dromahair in Co Leitrim.

Today approximately 60 have been completed and prices have dropped considerably from the original €300,000 asking price.

An ambitious €15m retail and residential project at Carraroe, close to the singer's extravagant mock-Georgian home, dubbed Westfork, was delayed amid local objections and appeals and has not begun.

A nursing home in Sligo town, a supermarket in Dromahair, a €5m Neighbourhood Centre development on the outskirts of Sligo and a three-storey retail development on a site in Ballina, Co Mayo, have also all failed to materialise.


In Rathedmond in Sligo the sod has yet to be turned for the €5m nursing home, where resident spokesperson, Jim O'Sullivan said that the Filan brothers had gotten "out of their depth" in a business with which they were unfamiliar.

"On a personal level there is a certain amount of sympathy in Sligo for them. The family is well-known and no one would have wished this but I think the difficulty is that they got into a business they were not familiar with and they had no opportunity to learn their trade when the whole thing imploded," he said last night.

Mr O'Sullivan added that they could have avoided some of the problems they encountered if they had negotiated more with local residents.

"As a Residents' Association we sat down with another developer and we were able to reach an agreement about his plans with the result that we had no objections.

"That did not happen with Shafin Developments with the result that there were appeals to An Board Pleanala and delays. I think it was just that they got into a very complicated business where there is no place for amateurs even in the boom.

"There is no doubt that Shane is very talented and he will come back but he needs to stick to what he knows," he said.

Irish Independent

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