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Yates ponders his next move as AIB closes in for the kill

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DIFFICULT TIMES:
Ivan Yates and his
wife Deirdre,
pictured when
Celtic Bookmakers
was doing well.

DIFFICULT TIMES: Ivan Yates and his wife Deirdre, pictured when Celtic Bookmakers was doing well.

DIFFICULT TIMES: Ivan Yates and his wife Deirdre, pictured when Celtic Bookmakers was doing well.

BROADCASTER and businessman Ivan Yates is trying to figure out his next move as he faces bankruptcy following the collapse of his bookmaking empire. He admitted that his future is now "exceptionally bleak".

The Newstalk presenter and former Fine Gael government minister is struggling under a mountain of debt as Allied Irish Banks piles €4,000 a week on top of a €3.6m debt with the bank.

After a creditors' meeting in the Pearse Hotel in Dublin on Friday, he was frank about his situation.

"I have been trying to negotiate with the bank, but to date I have found them impossible," he said.

Mr Yates faces possible bankruptcy -- in either Ireland or the United Kingdom -- or signing all his future income over to AIB, which is demanding full repayment of the €3.6m loan within two months.

His pension, earnings from his current media career and his interest in the family farm in Co Wexford are now at risk.

"I don't have €3.6m," he admitted. "The bank is looking for 10 years of future earnings, as well as all my assets."

Even in terms of Celtic Tiger collapses, it is a spectacular fall from grace for the well-liked former politician, who once ran a bookies' business with a turnover of close to €200m at its peak.

The result of a 25-minute meeting of creditors of his Celtic Bookmakers on Friday is that they will get nothing. Meanwhile, Mr Yates himself is facing financial ruin.

In the coming weeks, he will have to decide whether he stays on as a Newstalk presenter or moves to England, where there is a more lenient bankruptcy regime.

After Friday's creditors' meeting, he said he regarded his media career as "transient".

"It would be folly, at 52 years of age, to make promises about future income that I might not be able to honour," he said.

This was taken as an indication that Mr Yates, who has a substantial TD's pension of €74,000 a year, might leave Ireland because of the prohibitive bankruptcy laws here.

However, he has reinvented himself as a broadcaster, presenting shows on Newstalk and TV3, and this would provide a lucrative income.

Celtic Bookmakers had a turnover in 2008 of €190m. But last year it went into liquidation, leaving a trail of debt.

According to company documents, the 53-year-old businessman turned broadcaster, who lives near Enniscorthy in Co Wexford, had a €5m bank loan from Allied Irish Banks for Celtic Bookmakers, which was secured by his own personal guarantee.

The bank has now called in the remaining €3.5m.

Mr Yates and his wife Deirdre ran Celtic Bookmakers, which is now in liquidation. He was also a director of One Fifty One, although he ceased to be a director in 2010. His broadcasting and media activities are run through another company, Platinum Presentations.

This is not just a personal tragedy for Mr Yates. Smaller creditors were left empty-handed after his chain was put into liquidation and while AIB has the first claim.

The next-biggest debt is owed to the Department of Social Protection. It is owed a €330,000 refund for redundancy payments it made to Celtic Bookmakers staff after the company collapsed.

However, AIB is the biggest rock on his shoulders and it has given him a deadline of May 13 to pay his debts.

The former politician and businessman attended the liquidation of the company, which was set up in 1987 and involved his wife Deirdre, who was the driving force behind the business.

At one time, it had 60 shops spread across the country but after it got into difficulties AIB seized the business last year and 31 shops were sold for a total of €3m, with €2.5m of that cutting down some of Mr Yates's debts.

"The creditors' meeting is just another staging post on a pretty miserable route," he admitted after Friday's meeting. He disputes the bank's figures, including interest charges of €4,000 a week.

Mr Yates, a father of four, also owns a half-share in the 160-acre family farm outside Enniscorthy. It could be worth up to €2m but he does not have outright ownership.

His 80-year-old mother has a life interest in the other half, which will ultimately pass to him.

If the bank was to get an attachment order, a judge could decide what was a reasonable level of personal income for the Yates family and then send the rest of his income for the next 10 years to the bank until the debt is paid.

Sunday Independent