Seán FitzPatrick: Ambitious, charismatic and controversial

Long journey to ‘not guilty’ for former Anglo Irish Bank chairman

Wed, Apr 16, 2014, 22:18

After 43 days of evidence, the moment Seán FitzPatrick had been waiting for came just after 5pm today: acquittal.

Less than an hour later he walked out of Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. He made a short statement and left by taxi.

It has been a long journey for the former non-executive chairman of Anglo Irish Bank.

Born in Bray, Co Wicklow, in June 1948, FitzPatrick’s father was a dairy farmer and his mother was a civil servant. He grew up in a semi-detached house at the foot of Bray Head, the second of two children.

FitzPatrick went to school at Presentation College in the town from 1954.

At 18, he went to London for the first time, where he worked on a building site for the summer. He then went to University College Dublin to study commerce.

There he made friends easily and played rugby. After graduating, he studied accountancy and ended up at Craig Gardner, where he worked alongside another young accountant called Charlie McCreevy, a future minister for finance.

FitzPatrick became engaged in 1972 and with his future wife began saving for a house. Back then, mortgages were hard to get, but it was much easier if you worked in a bank. He spotted an ad in the paper: the Irish Bank of Commerce (IBC) was hiring.

His first day was April 1st, 1974. Back then, Ireland had lots of small banks and they regularly bought or merged with each other as the industry consolidated. City of Dublin Bank decided to take over IBC, and it promoted FitzPatrick to financial controller.

In 1980, another small bank called Anglo Irish Bank – half a finance house and half a merchant bank – came on the market and IBC bought it. FitzPatrick was asked to go to a recruitment company and find a chief executive to run Anglo. As he was driving to meet the recruiters he decided to ask his boss if he could take the job. He got the green light and at the age of 32 found himself the chief executive of Anglo. At the time, its gross assets, or loans, were £500,000. It was tiny but a start.

FitzPatrick was young, engaging and determined to succeed, according to people who worked with him at the time.

He was charismatic and prepared to take a chance on people and helped many business leaders, most notably a young Denis O’Brien, on their way to success.

Gradually, FitzPatrick built the bank up until it was one of the fastest-growing of its size in Europe.

Favourite of investors

It was a firm favourite of domestic and international stockbrokers as well as investors, who loved its low-cost but high-margin business model.