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Collapsed pub chain Botanic Inns in £14 million debt with Ulster Bank and drinks firm biggest creditors


Once the most successful pub group in Northern Ireland, Botanic Inns collapsed owing over £14m to Ulster Bank, drinks company Diageo and hundreds of other creditors, administrators' reports have revealed.

Ulster Bank appointed KPMG to Botanic Inns Ltd and its parent, Kurkova Ltd – both ran 14 pubs and hotels – on May 7.

The group was facing high rents, plummeting asset values and falling sales. But it's believed to have been on the verge of agreeing new terms with the bank, as well as Diageo and the Republic's bad bank Nama, which controlled the freehold of the six Botanic Inns Ltd pubs.

But the bank's appointment of administrators meant that agreement had to be torn up and KPMG took control of landmark pubs like The King's Head and The Botanic Inn, both in south Belfast.

The reports filed this week reveal the indebtedness of the two companies – Ulster Bank is owed £7.2m while Diageo, which also lent funds, is out £1.9m.

A further £5.5m is owed to more than 200 creditors.

In Botanic Inns Ltd, which ran The Bot, Madison's Hotel, the King's Head, The Elms, The Fly and the Northern Whig as tenants, Ulster Bank is owed £507,506 and Diageo £1.2m in unpaid loans, separate to £274,500 trade debt.

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Landlord Lisk Ltd, which is itself in administration and its loans in Nama – which effectively became Botanic Inns' Ltd landlord – is owed nearly £3m in rent and Inland Revenue £369,000.

Just one week into the administration process a deal with new leases was reached with Nama and two new firms, Horatio Taverns and The Fly, led by Botanic Inns group MD Stephen Magorrian, took over the pubs and remain in charge though the Elms is up for sale.

On that sale, the administrators report said: "It is considered by the joint administrators that asset values were maximised and a significant number of jobs were saved as a result of the strategy."

But that report does not reveal the consideration or cash paid over – though it reveals they paid Horatio Taverns and The Fly some £50,000 "in relation to utilities, overheads and arrears of wages".

Creditors of Botanic Inns Ltd range from energy firm Airtricity, owed £65,000, advisors BDO (£29,500) and Britvic (£32,800).

But the biggest trade creditor after Diageo is United Wine Merchants, owed £110,250. It's understood Diageo and other suppliers are co-operating with Horatio Group.