Mighty fall of a Border billionaire
This gripping book sets out the drive, greed and siege mentality behind Seán Quinn’s rise and spectacular fall
Seán Quinn at his cement plant at Derrylin, Co Fermanagh. Photograph: Jack McManus
For most of his life the media was kept well away from Seán Quinn, but that has changed now. A key moment came in December 2011, when he appeared at the High Court in Northern Ireland after Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, into which Anglo Irish Bank had been subsumed, challenged Quinn’s being made a bankrupt there rather than in the Republic. Characteristics that stood out then are the stand-out features of the tale told in Citizen Quinn by the business reporters Gavin Daly and Ian Kehoe.
There is a self-obsession about Quinn that pervades everything. It is probably both a product and a cause of his success. It may also explain why his career has ended in such epic failure. One of the issues that emerged during the Belfast hearings, for example, was that personal Quinn family bills were sent to the Quinn Group headquarters for payment from company money. On a different scale entirely, one of the core reasons why his business empire collapsed was that he used company assets, including assets belonging to Quinn Insurance, when his investment in – “bet on” is a better phrase – Anglo Irish Bank shares went so horrendously wrong.
It appears Quinn had a difficulty accepting that boundaries existed between him and the businesses he established. This may explain how, at the Belfast hearing, he could tell the court that he decided to invest in Anglo and so decided to establish a company in Madeira belonging to his (adult) children through which he would make and manage these investments.
This odd self-focus presumably also lies behind his tendency to refer to himself in the third person. It contributes to the sense of tragedy that pervades this book, in that Quinn’s drive and, as he himself has said, his insatiable greed for money are the explanations for his rise to enormous wealth and his spectacular fall.
Another trait, a kind of siege mentality and a tendency to blame others, became apparent outside the Belfast court when the businessman began to rail against the people who had put Quinn Insurance into administration and appointed share receivers to the Quinn Group. They were English people, Scots, Australians, foreigners who had flown into Ireland to pillage all he had created and who would be gone as soon as they had taken what they could. “You people,” he said, referring to the assembled reporters, “are being led by the nose.”