Inside the world of business
Seáns find 'sorry' a difficult word
BANKRUPT BUSINESSMAN Seán Quinn seems to be going down the same path followed by bankrupt former banker Seán FitzPatrick when it comes to shirking responsibility for the excesses of the past.
In an interview with the Financial Times published yesterday, Quinn again sets out his case why he and his family have done no wrong putting €500 million of properties beyond the reach of the former Anglo Irish Bank or on his huge gamble on Anglo’s shares.
“The biggest disgrace about all this is they have my son in jail and me ready to go to it for taking assets which we believe then and now are ours,” the newspaper quoted him as saying in an interview “with fists clenched”, discussing the property assets.
There is a wonderful admission from Quinn the Gambler in the interview when he explains how he acquired more than 25 per cent of Anglo Irish Bank through contracts for difference (CFDs) thereby contributing to the destabilisation of the bank in the markets.
“It was never our intention to own 25 per cent of the bank but as it got cheaper we just seemed to buy more and we got sucked in,” Quinn said.
As for the €1.65 billion cost of Quinn Insurance or the unpaid debts of €2.8 billion to Anglo mostly to cover the losses on his extraordinary share gamble, he follows a similar line FitzPatrick gave in response to the bank guarantee.
“There are few companies in the history of the state that have contributed more to the Irish government, taxpayer and people than I have. Overall, I don’t think that I owe the Irish taxpayer any apology,” Quinn told the FT.
Asked in October 2008 whether he would apologise for the government having to guarantee the banks, FitzPatrick told Marian Finucane on RTÉ radio: “It would be easy for me to answer a call like that and say sorry. What I’ve got to say is this, is that the cause of our problems was global, not directed, nothing. So I can’t say sorry with any type of sincerity and decency.”
Olhausen's left without sausage by receivership
IT’S TOUGH to be a bank when you’re owed loads of money by a company that’s failing and you can’t find a trade buyer. Do you a) go nuclear with a receivership, or do you b) entertain a last-minute low-ball offer from a financier who has no experience in the sector but knows about company rescues?
Ulster Bank faced this dilemma this week when considering the future of Olhausen’s, the elderly and loved sausage company. Michael Flacks, Monaco-based and colourful of character, said it was “very upsetting” that his offer of €1 million for Olhausen’s €8 million debt was rejected. Ulster had wanted double that, he said. The bank also refused a Flacks offer of €1 that would have seen Ulster taking a 25 per cent share in the company. Flacks, who is best-known for leading the buyout of A|Wear earlier this year, said the whole thing was “absolutely stupid”.
And maybe it was, but we will never know, since the receivership button was pushed on Wednesday morning. Certainly, Flacks’s proposals sounded very favourable to his backers, and certainly the offers, made just as Ulster was preparing the pull the plug, came very, very late.
The greatest shame is that Olhausen’s didn’t manage to sell itself earlier this year, when in talks with Larry Goodman’s Irish Food Processors and Monaghan-based Mallon Foods. While a deal with either would most likely have led to consolidation and job losses, it would not have resulted in the devastation felt at Olhausen’s three plants this week. And crucially, such a sale would have been a trade-to-trade deal, as opposed to a pure financial bet.
The Olhausen’s receivers’ phones were busy on Wednesday after news of the company’s failure broke and as interest grew in its assets. Flacks was non-committal on whether or not he was still at the end of one of the lines, but he did reveal his interest in food-processing. As well as Olhausen, he has investigated Waterford-based chicken company Cappoquin, to which an examiner was appointed in August. Anybody for a Cappoquin/Olhausen’s merger?
You can get the latest news each business day at irishtimes.com/businessor by following us on Twitter at twitter.com/IrishTimesBiz. We also have a Facebook page at facebook.com/IrishTimesBizwhere you can read the latest business headlines, blog posts and reader polls.