The brothers behind the collapsed Taggart property empire have started £1bn legal proceedings against Ulster Bank, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Michael and John Taggart from Dungiven, Co Londonderry issued a writ against the bank claiming damages for breach of contract, damages for misrepresentation and asking for return of money which they claimed was paid to the bank in September 2007.
Taggart Holdings boasted a vast property empire across Ireland north and south, in Great Britain and the Isle of Man.
In 2007, Michael Taggart was named Ernst & Young Entreprenuer of the Year.
But property prices plunged in the credit crunch and the firm went into administration in October 2008 when Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland called in debts thought to be around £300m, much of which was owed to contractors and small businesses.
Speaking from the US last night, 44-year-old Michael Taggart said: “My main reason for doing this |is to make sure the creditors |affected will get paid.
“I have spent hundreds of thousands progressing this case and I will continue to do so for as long as it takes.
“This is not about money for me.”
In another twist, Ulster Bank will go to court on Monday over millions of euros worth of personal guarantee claims signed by the Taggarts. Ulster Bank was not available for comment on the personal guarantee case or the writ issued by the Taggarts.
Mr Taggart said he had enjoyed a good working relationship with the banks until 2007.
He bought his first plot of land in 1986 before co-founding Taggart Homes Ltd in 1989 with his brother.
Twenty years later, the firm was building 500 houses per year in Northern Ireland, the Republic, the UK, Europe and the USA.
The business expanded dramatically in 2006 when the Taggarts bought English housebuilders CMYuill Ltd.
In the middle of the same year, the company bought Fraser Estates, later renamed as Taggart Estates.
These transactions brought a large area of development land into the company
Financial results for 2006 reflected dramatic growth, with turnover doubling to £129.6m and operating profits doubling to £28.5m.
But by the end of that year, bank borrowing had correspondingly grown to £110m.
The brothers featured on the Sunday Times Rich List in 2007 and 2008, with a combined wealth of £95m.
Their lifestyle attracted media attention, with Michael Taggart consistently denying reports that he flew Lionel Richie and Van Morrison to perform at his |wedding reception in Dungiven |in 2007.
Mr Taggart has since begun working with a new development company, Tailored Property Developments.