Belfast Telegraph

How the empire of tycoon Quinn crumbled in the aftermath of the global financial crisis

Sean Quinn
Sean Quinn

By Mark McConville

The Quinn Group was estimated to be worth around £4bn in November 2005 and Sean Quinn was reportedly the richest person in Ireland in 2008, worth £3.7bn.

Then the trouble began.

Mr Quinn had been using contracts for difference to build up a secret 24% stake in Anglo Irish Bank.

Essentially, Mr Quinn used the financial instrument to bet on the bank's share price to rise which would have made him billions, but the credit crunch saw him lose five times his initial stake.

As the global recession hit in 2007, the bank's share price plummeted but they continued to lend money to Mr Quinn.

He took €280m out of his insurance company to cover the losses from his entanglement in the bank, while the bank lent him €1.97bn in six separate tranches.

Quinn Direct Insurance was fined €3.45m by the Irish financial regulator when this came to light. Mr Quinn stepped down as chairman but his family retained control of the company.

Anglo Irish Bank was nationalised in January 2009 with the bailout projected to ultimately cost €34bn.

By 2011 Quinn had been stripped of control of his business empire, with the former Anglo Irish Bank, now called Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), taking control.

With the IBRC set to enforce loan guarantees given to Mr Quinn and other debts totalling £2.4bn, he was declared bankrupt in a Belfast court in what is believed to be one of the biggest bankruptcy orders of its kind ever made in either the UK or Ireland.

The IBRC challenged the ruling, claiming Mr Quinn's "centre of main interests" was in the Republic of Ireland, and a judge ruled he was not entitled to file for bankruptcy in Northern Ireland in January 2012 and annulled it.

That same month Mr Quinn was declared bankrupt in the Republic, where the period of bankruptcy can last at least five years, although he was discharged just three years later.

As the IBRC sought to recover the debt from the Quinn Group, its lawyers alleged that members of the Quinn family tried to strip assets from their firms, putting property worth millions of pounds beyond the reach of the former bank, in defiance of a court order.

In 2012, the High Court in Dublin ruled that Sean Quinn, his son Sean Quinn Jnr and nephew Peter Darragh Quinn were in contempt of that court order. Sean Quinn and his son were jailed for contempt and served short sentences in Dublin's Mountjoy prison.

An Irish consortium, backed by US investors, bought part of Quinn's businesses from IBRC, allegedly with his blessing, and hired him as a consultant on €500,000 a year. Mr Quinn left that role in 2016, claiming it was by "mutual consent", but later said he was "sacked in writing".

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