Court approves debt write-off of about €12m for Jeffrey and Pia Bang Stokes

Couple will pay lump sum of €145,000 in arrangement with creditors and keep family home

The High Court has approved the write-off of about €12 million in debt owed by Pia Bang Stokes and her husband, Jeffrey Stokes, who previously ran the Unicorn restaurant in Dublin.

Ms Justice Marie Baker signed off on a personal insolvency arrangement for the couple, freeing them of the bulk of their debts in return for the lump-sum payment of €145,000.

The bulk of that money will go to their biggest creditor, Dunbar Assets, formerly Zurich Bank, which is owed almost €9 million, and to Revenue.

The judge noted that the couple's creditors had voted overwhelmingly in favour of the insolvency plan when it came before them at a meeting on January 10th and that just 0.05 per cent of creditors opposed the arrangement negotiated by insolvency practitioner Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton.

READ MORE

She said there were clearly no inequities or unfairness in the arrangement and nothing to engage her powers of discretion to change the terms of the arrangement.

Other creditors include Ulster Bank Ireland, which is owed €1.8 million, and Bank of Scotland Ireland, which is owed €1.2 million.

The couple were not in court for the ruling. The judge overlooked typographical errors in the paperwork before the court, saying that they were “immaterial”.

“I am satisfied that the creditors overwhelmingly support this personal insolvency arrangement,” said Ms Justice Baker.

Creditors fared slightly better under the personal insolvency arrangement than they would have done if the couple had been declared bankrupt.

Family home

Mr and Mrs Stokes, aged 73 and 69 respectively, retain their family home in Kilternan, south Co Dublin, which, according to court records, is valued at €800,000 and carries mortgage debt of about €680,000. The couple make monthly repayments of about €700 on the property.

The couple offered creditors a stake in a commercial property on Westmoreland Street in Dublin and a plot of land in Schull, Co Cork, under the arrangement.

Dunbar had been pursuing the couple and their sons Simon and Christian Stokes – who, during the boom years, ran Bang Restaurant on Merrion Row and, later, the private Residence club on St Stephen's Green in Dublin city centre – since the middle of 2014 over their debts.

The couple and their sons had borrowed the money from Zurich Bank in 2007 to refinance loans from Bank of Scotland Ireland; the money had been secured on the Unicorn restaurant, the leasehold on Residence and a property in Foxrock, south Co Dublin.

Identical twins Simon and Christian Stokes were declared bankrupt in 2015. Their Danish mother, an interior designer, ran the well-known shop Pia Bang on South Anne Street in Dublin.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent