Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Northern Ireland hotel chain family are banned

McLarnon brothers' disqualified for unfit conduct

Brothers who owned a string of hotels employing 200 staff are among four people to admit unfit conduct at the helm of their family firms.

Hoteliers Gerard (44) of Galgorm Road, Ballymena, and Joseph McLarnon (42) of Hervey Hill Road in Kilrea agreed not to act as directors for eight years each after their Leighinmohr House Hotel went under owing around £1.2million.

Meanwhile, husband and wife Gerard (44) and Carina McManus (39) of Molly Road in Derrylin agreed to be disqualified for seven years each for their conduct at the head of a plant hire company, which went bust owing £4.3m.

Gerard McLarnon was made bankrupt in October 2009.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, which accepted the four disqualification undertakings last month, said: "The aim is to bring disqualification proceedings against those directors of failed companies who have abused the privilege of limited liability status through negligence, incompetence or lack of commercial probity."

The McLarnons, whose company MCL Investments ran the Leighinmohr House Hotel, admitted unfit conduct - including not co-operating fully with the administrator, FSG McClure Watters, and using £624,900 owed to the Crown for financing the business.

They also borrowed £484,00 of company money for their own personal use, without obtaining security and entered into contracts which were of no benefit to the company.

Two of the McLarnons' other hotels, the O'Neill Arms in Toomebridge and The Adair Arms in Ballymena, have been sold.

It is understood Merchant Hotel owner Beannchor is operating the Leighinmohr on behalf of the administrators.

McLarnons also owned The Fort Royal Inn in Glarryford and The Old Thatch Inn in Castledawson.

The McManuses, from Co Fermanagh, employed around 50 people in Gerry McManus Plant Hire.

They admitted misusing their Ulster Bank account by presenting over 150 cheques worth £511,000, along with 90 direct debits and seven standing orders, not knowing whether they would be honoured.

A second bank account with Allied Irish was also misused to the tune of €880,600, running up fees of €8,300 for another 1,840 items which took the account over agreed credit limits.

They sold goods which were on hire purchase with HSBC, resulting in a loss to the owner of £22,706, and they withheld £507,000 which was due to the Crown.

£484,000

The amount of company money the McLarnons borrowed for their own use without obtaining security