Belfast Telegraph

Omagh family's businesses close after loans sold to Cerberus

By Rachel Martin

A Co Tyrone businessman who once employed around 100 people in Omagh says his companies have been forced to close their doors by US vulture fund Cerberus.

The businesses run by the Daly family are thought to have been former clients of Ulster Bank whose loans were sold to Cerberus.

The family operates a number of businesses in the town, including Culmore Service Station, Daly's Bar on High Street and the Embankment in Old Market Place.

The Vault nightclub was also closed over the bank holiday weekend - traditionally a busy time for the hospitality industry.

However, Sean Daly, who runs the businesses, said he was "very hopeful" they would reopen soon.

"The Daly family have made a major financial investment in Omagh pre-2007, employing approximately 100 people across all three businesses," he told the Ulster Herald.

"Like all families and businesses we were hit very hard by the recession and downturn in trade." Cerberus was not available for comment.

Ulster Bank sold two portfolios of loans to Cerberus under Project Rathlin in 2015 and Project Aran in 2014.

In March, Ulster Bank confirmed it had written to some small businesses andfarmers in Northern Ireland giving them two weeks to refinance problem debts or risk their loans being sold off by the bank.

One source has said the Daly loans may have been part of an earlier batch sold by the bank.

The bank would not say how many businesses were affected by the March's proposed sale. It said that the move affected just a small number of businesses in Northern Ireland, with the majority of businesses affected based in the Republic of Ireland.

Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said many of the organisation's members were worried about the potential sale of loans.

"With our members, it's mainly property debt, and most of it can be worked through if the businesses are given the opportunity to do so," he said.

"The worry is that the loans could be sold to someone who just wants to realise the assets and not work with the businesses.

"The concern is not just about the loans which have already been sold but what the bank might do with the loans it still has."

Omagh Independent councillor Sorcha McAnespy said there would be a "massive knock-on effect" caused by the closure of the businesses.

"One of the biggest travesties is that they are very decent people. They are part of the community and they employ a lot of local people too and they look after their employees," she said.

"Here in Omagh, we are quite isolated and there's not many jobs about, so when you have a person giving proper full-time jobs with their businesses it's very welcome."

Belfast Telegraph