Belfast Telegraph

Quinn loses grip on his vast empire

Bank agrees deal to wrest control in bid to save jobs

Thousands of employees of the once-mighty Quinn Group could be able to keep their jobs following a proposed deal between administrators and the bank on which the firm's tycoon founder gambled his profits.

Up to 2,600 manufacturing staff and 1,570 Quinn Insurance employees in Northern Ireland and the Republic will be breathing a sigh of relief following seperate developments.

However, founder Sean Quinn, once said to be worth £4.4bn by Forbes magazine's rich list, will not be involved with the new venture after his risky gamble on Anglo Irish Bank shares triggered the collapse of the mega- company he built up from a single quarry.

Anglo - which itself was taken over by the Irish state - has secured a deal for Mr Quinn's holdings to be transferred to Kieran Wallace, of accountancy firm KPMG, after he failed to repay €2.8bn (£2.4bn) in loans built up through borrowings used to fund investments in the bank.

Some €500m (£441m) of debts in the manufacturing business have been struck out.

All parts of the Quinn manufacturing group, which is involved in glass, construction, insulation materials, packaging, plastics and radiators in a number of countries, have also been protected for five years.

Meanwhile, a joint venture of Liberty Mutual - the fifth largest insurer in the US - and, ironically, Anglo Irish Bank has been announced as the preferred bidder for the general insurance business of Quinn Insurance Ltd. Liberty Mutual already employs around 300 people in Northern Ireland

Joint Administrators Michael McAteer and Paul McCann said that Liberty Mutual will be wholly responsible for the operation of the new joint venture and the majority partner, Anglo Irish Bank, would have no involvement in the day-to-day operation of the new company ,but would act in a loan recovery capacity.

"We are pleased to be able to say that there will be no loss of jobs in either the Republic or Northern Ireland as a result of the sale process.

"Our goal has always been to preserve the maximum number of jobs, and we have achieved that outcome," they added.

Prior to the joint venture taking control, offices on both sides of the border will be centralised in Cavan, Enniskillen and Blanchardstown in Dublin with Cavan remaining the head office of the business.

A spokesperson for the lenders to the Quinn Group - Irish and other international lending institutions, who together are owed approximately €1.3bn (£1.1bn) - said that they have reached agreement in principle with Anglo on a restructuring of the group's debt obligations.

Economy minister Arlene Foster has welcomed the announcement today that all the jobs in both Quinn Insurance and the wider Quinn group are safe.

All jobs in the Republic of Ireland and NI will transfer to the joint venture.

Quinn Group chairman Pat O'Neill said the financial restructuring was "essential for the survival of the business", and said more than 2,600 jobs would be protected.

The scandal broke in 2010 when Quinn Insurance was put into administration after the Irish Financial Regulator deemed that it did not have cash reserves to meet its liabilities and the extent of Mr Quinn's borrowing became clear.