McCourt held meetings with Anglo Irish Bank about buying assets

Businessman’s meetings with Denis Naughten lead to the minister’s resignation

 David McCourt, the  businessman behind US investment firm Granahan McCourt. The Department of Finance referred the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation to Mr McCourt.

David McCourt, the businessman behind US investment firm Granahan McCourt. The Department of Finance referred the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation to Mr McCourt.

 

The US businessman whose meetings with Denis Naughten led to his resignation as minister for communications held a series of meetings with the former Anglo Irish Bank about buying assets.

The Department of Finance referred the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation to David McCourt, the Irish-American businessman behind US investment firm Granahan McCourt, more than five years ago when the department was pushing the bank to sell off assets in a run-down of the business.

The contacts led to a series of contacts and meetings between IBRC executives and Mr McCourt, who was working at the time with a well-known private equity firm looking to buy distressed Irish bank assets, sources said. One source said “positive noises” were made to the bank about the businessman’s Irish connections and that he appeared to have strong connections with Irish government sources.

Mr McCourt was said to be interested in corporate loans that the bank was attempting to offload and that he was shown details of assets on the bank’s books but that the contacts did not lead to any sale.

One former Department of Finance source recalled meeting Mr McCourt in the post-crash years but could not remember the exact context of the meeting. Potential investors contacting the department were regularly referred on to IBRC if they were considered possible purchases of loan sales.

Private dinners

Mr Naughten resigned earlier this month after it emerged he had a number of private dinners with Mr McCourt who is heading up the last remaining bid for the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

Two newspapers, the Irish Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Business Post, yesterday reported further meetings between Mr McCourt and Fine Gael junior minister Pat Breen. A Government press spokesman said that the 2016 meetings had been previously reported.*

Mr Breen, the Minister of State with responsibility for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, met Mr McCourt on three occasions in 2016.

One of the meetings was a breakfast meeting at the Merrion Hotel where the businessman lives when he is in Dublin. The politician has also visited Mr McCourt’s home in Newmarket-on-Fergus in Co Clare, Mr Breen’s constituency, on several occasions in a private capacity, his spokeswoman has said.

Contaminated

Independent auditor Peter Smyth will examine over the next three weeks whether the private meetings between the lead consortium bidding for the broadband contract and the minister has contaminated the tendering process for the NBP.

Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, which contains the remnants of defunct lenders Anglo and Irish Nationwide, was placed into special liquidation after the passage of legislation in February 2013.

The State-owned entity, which is being liquidated by KPMG accountants, has remaining loan assets with a par value of about €3.5 billion.

* This article was amended on Monday, October 22nd.