Yates to leave Newstalk to work on mounting debts

Fri, Mar 23, 2012, 00:00

BROADCASTER, FORMER bookmaker and former minister Ivan Yates plans to leave his morning breakfast show on Newstalk early next month to concentrate on sorting out his personal finances.

Mr Yates is believed to be considering relocating to Britain to have himself declared bankrupt as he battles with AIB over a €3.6 million debt related to the collapse of Celtic Bookmakers in January 2011.

The move would allow Mr Yates to avail of Britain’s more lenient bankruptcy laws, where he could be free from his debts after one year.

It is understood that Mr Yates has agreed a departure date with Newstalk of Good Friday, April 6th. He currently co-hosts the station’s breakfast show with Chris Donoghue.

This is Newstalk’s top-rated programme, with 135,000 listeners a day – putting it slightly ahead of George Hook’s Drivetime show.

Newstalk’s political editor Shane Coleman is expected to fill the morning slot on an interim basis until a replacement is appointed by the Denis O’Brien-owned national station.

It is understood the decision to leave Newstalk was taken by Mr Yates himself.

He ran into financial difficulties last year when his Celtic Bookmakers chain collapsed, owing €6 million. The former Wexford TD and ex-minister for agriculture has since spoken openly about possibly declaring himself bankrupt.

Mr Yates declared Britain to be his usual place of residence in July 2010 in documents filed with the companies office there. Celtic Bookmakers had a small number of outlets in Wales.

The former Fine Gael minister is currently being charged weekly interest payments of €4,000 by AIB, which has demanded all of his assets along with a 10-year lien on future earnings to extinguish the debt.

The broadcaster has disputed the level of his debt to the bank, claiming it amounts to €3.4 million rather than €3.6 million.

No comment was available from Newstalk yesterday while Mr Yates did not return phone calls.

Celtic Bookmakers was founded in 1987, with Mr Yates opening a shop in Tramore, Co Waterford.

Business began to wane in late 2007 as the economic downturn started to bite. The bookmakers made a loss of €1.5 million in the year to July 2010. Turnover declined from €189.5 million in 2008 to €122 million in 2010 as punters reined in their betting.

The bookmaking business was finally extinguished last week at a creditors meeting. Unsecured creditors were left €1.6 million out of pocket and Mr Yates said he was facing an “exceptionally bleak” future.

Mr Yates’s income has increasingly been derived from media work in the past couple of years via Newstalk and programmes on TV3.

He has also engaged in other media activities and personal appearances. He has an Oireachtas pension of €74,000 from his 21 years as a TD and a former minister.

His main asset is the family farm in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, which has an estimated value of €2 million. His elderly mother has a life interest in half of the farm, which will ultimately revert to Mr Yates.