Belfast Telegraph

Property tycoon Michael Taggart facing bankruptcy after losing legal battle

By Greg Harkin

A Londonderry businessman once named one of Ireland's richest men has acknowledged he is facing bankruptcy.

Michael Taggart (49) ran one of the biggest multimillion-pound property-building empires in Ireland, in addition to projects across the UK, Europe and North America.

But after a 10-year battle with Ulster Bank, centred on a development site in Kinsealy in Co Dublin, Mr Taggart said he and his brother, John (57), had decided it was time to "move on".

He has been working as a consultant for a series of new developments in Northern Ireland by Taggart Homes, which is operated by his son, Nick (25), and the former management team of his old company.

In a rare interview, Mr Taggart said: "John and I have fought the battle with the banks and unfortunately all the High Court cases against Ulster Bank have failed.

"Rumours have been flying around for the past few weeks and unfortunately it's true - the bank has us left with no option but to go for bankruptcy.

"We had borrowed monies which we had offered in settlement, but this was refused, so there's only one option (bankruptcy) left.

"It's unfortunate for me personally and for John personally, but we have no other options open to us.

"Nick has gone into the building business and I've been able to advise him along the way. I'm blown away about how successful he has been so far.

"We have two sites in Derry and another one in Limavady in north Derry. I've even worked on the sites myself to help him to get started."

Last month the High Court in Belfast ruled that the Taggart brothers were liable for a €4.3m (£3.7m) personal guarantee over the Kinsealy land. A second personal guarantee of £5m is also outstanding.

In a 30-day hearing Michael Taggart claimed that Ulster Bank's restructuring arm, Global Restructuring Group (GRG), had deliberately put his multimillion-pound construction companies out of business - a claim that was strenuously denied by the bank.

While the High Court judgment went against him, four weeks ago Ulster Bank's parent company, RBS, set up a £400m compensation scheme for businesses closed down by its GRG unit. More than 12,000 companies are suing the bank for compensation.

"Unfortunately I won't be one of them - it has come far too late for me," Mr Taggart said.

He added it was "nice to see Taggart Homes back, albeit with Nick at the helm and supported by myself and John".

"We can certainly help him avoid many of the pitfalls that come with working in business, and home sales are extremely good," he explained.

"More than 80 homes in Limavady are completed and there's another 160 under construction in Derry, with another 250 being built this year and projections for another 300 in 2018.

"I'll bounce bank after bankruptcy. I think attitudes in Ireland have changed to the process."

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