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Yates calls in creditors for a final carve-up of lost empire

BROADCASTER Ivan Yates will next week come face to face with the creditors he owes €6m as the final carve-up of his collapsed business empire begins.

Mr Yates called a crunch meeting with those who supplied and lent money to his Celtic Bookmakers firm, which once boasted 60 shops and an annual turnover of close to €200m.

Now suppliers who were left out of pocket when the chain collapsed will be asked to back Mr Yates's plan to put the business into liquidation.

It means any remaining assets will be sold off to pay the debts of the firm.

Following the dramatic collapse of the business last year, Mr Yates admitted he could be financially wiped out, losing everything including his home and farm in Co Wexford.

The former Fine Gael minister took out personal guarantees on business loans which means he is liable for assets not owned by the company, such as the farm and house, which are valued at €2m.

He was unavailable for comment last night on the latest state of play in his troubled finances.

He has previously described the process of winding up his empire as "purgatory" and considered leaving the country to avail of the UK's more lenient bankruptcy laws.

The high-profile former politician, businessman and current broadcaster has now called a "creditors' meeting" for Dublin on Friday week, March 16.

It is the final act in the spectacular rise and fall of Celtic Bookmakers, the chain owned and managed by Mr Yates and his wife Deirdre.

In a notice yesterday, Mr Yates asked creditors to come forward and say how much they are owed ahead of the meeting at the Pearse Hotel.

He called the meeting himself. That means he is expected to be there in person to sit down with the suppliers.

Mr Yates gave up a successful political career to pursue his business dreams. During the economic boom the husband and wife team led the business through a rapid expansion, opening stores across Ireland and even expanding into Wales.

But by 2011 losses were mounting. High rents and falling incomes sounded a death knell for the business.

Receivers took control of the business in January last year.

But Mr Yates is still liable for €5m bank loans taken out by the business because he gave personal guarantees

That kind of personal commitment to repay company loans has become common here, but flies in the face of the old "limited liability" rules that used to treat limited companies and directors as separate.

The guarantees means Mr Yates is on the hook even for personal assets never owned by the company, such as the farm and family home at Blackstoops Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

However, over the last year he has been one of the most outspoken of the businessmen brought down by the wider economic collapse.

Liquidation

He has described the Irish insolvency process as "purgatory" and has publicly considered leaving the country to go to Wales.

Since Celtic Bookmakers was taken over by the receivers, Mr Yates has increased an already high media profile.

He now co-hosts a radio show on Newstalk, writes a weekly column for the 'Irish Examiner' and is a regular stand in for Vincent Brown on TV3, which he was due to host last night.

The main business of the meeting is to set out the total value of the remaining company assets and the total amount of debt owed. Creditors will then be able to calculate what, if any, recovery they can make from the collapse once those key figures are totted up.

Most will struggle to make any real recovery on the Celtic Bookers debts because the bank has a charge over its assets -- putting it at the head of the queue for any cash the business can recover.

They will also be asked to vote to liquidate the company and mark a final end to Ivan Yates's betting empire.

Irish Independent