Goodmans embroiled in row after buying repossessed farm

Bereft farmer pleaded with tycoon’s family not to purchase Louth homestead

Larry Goodman was asked  if he would invest in Liam Gilmore’s farm.  And while Mr Goodman “was helpful and gave advice,” he did not invest. Photograph: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Larry Goodman was asked if he would invest in Liam Gilmore’s farm. And while Mr Goodman “was helpful and gave advice,” he did not invest. Photograph: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

 

A company controlled by beef magnate Larry Goodman and his son, Laurence jnr, has defended its purchase of a repossessed Louth family farm from a receiver acting for the so-called “vulture fund”, Cerberus Capital.

The farmer, Liam Gilmore, says he pleaded with the Goodman family, who live nearby, not to buy his farm, which was repossessed on foot of a €1.4 million loan to Ulster Bank, later transferred to Cerberus.

Documents seen by this newspaper show that, in recent weeks, Braganstown Farms, a Jersey-controlled entity whose directors include Mr Goodman and his son, as well as Mr Goodman’s wife, has agreed a deal for the 130-acre property in the townland of Tattyboys.

The sale to the Goodmans, first highlighted last week in The Irish Farmers Journal, is understood to have not yet closed. It is believed the price was about €1.45 million, which Mr Gilmore insists is disappointing, given its prime location near a busy road.

In a statement last night to The Irish Times, Braganstown insisted it was not the only bidder for the farm, which had been in Mr Gilmore’s family for 60 years.

“The farm was purchased as a result of it being for sale on the open market, through selling agents. There were a number of farmers in the bidding process. It is not appropriate to comment further,” said a spokesman for Braganstown.

‘Losing €5,000 a week’

Mr Gilmore took out the loans from Ulster Bank in 2008 to invest in new land and slurry storage as part of a plan to expand his dairy operation. When the price of milk dropped in 2009, he got into difficulties: “I was losing €5,000 a week,” he said.

Mr Gilmore says his credit facilities were then scaled back and he had a shortage of working capital. In 2010, he approached Mr Goodman snr to ask if he would invest in his farm.

“He was helpful and gave advice,” he recalled, “but he didn’t invest”.

Goodman jnr bought farm

In 2011, Mr Gilmore sold all his cattle to clear debts. His cousin moved on to the farm as a tenant, running a tillage operation. Mr Gilmore says he was unable to negotiate a settlement with Ulster and his loan was sold to Cerberus in 2015, a year before a receiver was appointed.

He says he received information a year ago that the Goodman family was interested in his farm, but he claims he was unsuccessful when he attempted to secure another meeting with the veteran businessman.

A month ago, his cousin was told that Mr Goodman jnr had “bought” the farm. Mr Gilmore says he arranged to meet Mr Goodman jnr in a coffee shop in Dundalk, where he pleaded with him not to buy his farm.

“I told him my father died on that farm when I was 12 years of age. I thought I’d be able to pass it on to my three sons,” said Mr Gilmore. “But he told me that the deal was just business.”

On Good Friday, a “for sale” sign was erected on the farm. Mr Gilmore revealed that graffiti criticising the sale appeared on its walls later that day, but he said he had no knowledge of who was responsible.