US investors put clause in 2014 Quinn deal aimed at ending vandalism

Bondholders incentivised new owners to try to reduce ‘community interference’ after prolonged campaign of vandalism against Seán Quinn’s former businesses

US investors who seized Seán Quinn’s group insisted on a clause aimed at ending a campaign of vandalism in a sale deal with a local business consortium linked to Mr Quinn at the time, a new documentary and book reveals.

Details of the 140-page agreement are revealed in the final part of an RTÉ documentary series Quinn Country, broadcast on Wednesday night, and in an accompanying book, Quinn, written by the documentary maker Trevor Birney that is being published on Thursday.

In 2014, American bondholders agreed to finance the sale of parts of the Quinn Group, the Cavan-Fermanagh industrial business, to a consortium called Quinn Business Retention Company (QBRC), made up of Mr Quinn’s former managers and local business allies. The book reveals that the US bondholder-owners, who took over the Quinn Group in the wake of his disastrous bet on Anglo Irish Bank, were so concerned about the vandalism that they included a clause in the deal to try to minimise what they called “community interference”.

Quinn Group premises, property and equipment were subjected to repeated vandalism attacks in the wake of Mr Quinn losing control of the group after receivers were appointed over his debts of almost €3 billion to Anglo and the group’s debts of €1.1 billion to the bondholders.

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The agreement included a clause incentivising the new managers to agree that if there was “no community interference” – defined in the contract as “sabotage, threats and intimidation” – that QBRC would get a higher percentage from the sale of Quinn Group’s glass business. This was withheld from that sale and it was one of the assets most sought after by Mr Quinn, the documentary states.

The QBRC signatories did not comment for the documentary when asked about the clause.

A QBRC source told The Irish Times that, with the management incentive plan, the American investors were “trying to get QBRC to do what the Garda and the Police Service of Northern Ireland had failed to do: put pressure on the criminal element to leave the business alone”.

When Quinn, then brought in as a consultant to QBRC, left the business in 2016 after he fell out with his former Quinn Group management team, the campaign of violence began again.

The former billionaire has denied any involvement in the vandalism and has attributed the campaign to the anger felt by some supporters in the local community over his loss of the businesses.

The final episode of the three-part documentary detailed the extensive campaign of threats, violence and intimidation against former Quinn Group executives and property over recent years, culminating in the abduction and assault on former Quinn executive Kevin Lunney in 2019.

Former Fine Gael politician Alan Dukes, who played a key role in Mr Quinn’s removal from the group while State-appointed chairman of the nationalised former Anglo Irish Bank in 2011, told the documentary that people from the Border area have a tendency to turn to violence “in their blood”.

“They are living in communities that have a long history of violence of different kinds, they will more easily turn to it than anybody else will,” he said.

“I am not saying they are different animals from the rest of us but whether they have Provo links or B Special links or whatever, it is something that is nearer to the way they think than it would be to somebody in south Tipperary or anywhere like that.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

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