Belfast Telegraph

On the ropes since 2008, embattled company boss went down fighting

Yesterday was undoubtedly the darkest day in Sean Quinn's business career and arguably his life. But the seeds of Quinn's destruction were sown many years ago when a previously risk averse, rural businessman decided to play the markets and came off second best.

Until quite recently the tycoon was reported to be worth €4.1bn by 'Forbes' magazine, he was Ireland's richest man and his insurance-industrial holdings business was the envy of virtually everyone in Irish business.

Because it was a company involved in real trading businesses, it had a reputation for caution and prudence; but strangely Quinn departed from these values and dipped his toes into shark infested waters, often betting against some of the biggest banks in the world. Because of that, since 2008, Quinn has been on the financial ropes.

In March 2008, for instance, Quinn found himself in Buswells Hotel sitting down with Anglo chiefs Sean FitzPatrick and David Drumm to discuss disposing of his Anglo shares.

According to FitzPatrick's account of this meeting, Quinn was even then "close to tears'' as he knew his carefully assembled business empire was on the line.

Ever since that day, Quinn's hold on that empire has been tenuous at best. Since that period Quinn has not only had to deal with the consequences of his Anglo gamble, but also the severe nature of the Irish recession which has made his businesses less valuable right at the time when he needed them most.

The outcome of the Quinn/Anglo gamble, shared by Quinn and various family members, is an astonishing debt of €2.8bn. The problem for Quinn was a simple one - the debt was huge, but his resources had become modest. Complicating the picture is that Quinn has been dealing with Anglo Irish, a nationalised bank since January 2009.

As a result all Quinn's debt problems have become problems for Irish taxpayers too, bringing the whole sensitive subject of his debt into the public domain - something Quinn detests.

Since last year Quinn and his family were rapidly running out of options to repay the staggering €2.8bn of debt to Anglo Irish. And yesterday, finally, he ran out of road.