Sir Anthony O’Reilly declared bankrupt in court hearing in the Bahamas

Former billionaire has been resident in Lyford Cay in the Bahamas

Sir Anthony O’Reilly, the businessman often said to be Ireland’s first billionaire, is  applying for bankruptcy in the Bahamas today. Photo: PA

Sir Anthony O’Reilly, the businessman often said to be Ireland’s first billionaire, is applying for bankruptcy in the Bahamas today. Photo: PA

 

Sir Anthony O’Reilly has been declared bankupt in a court hearing in the Bahamas and is now to be allowed file for an insolvency arrangement, the Supreme Court in the Bahamas has ruled. This followed a lengthy hearing on Friday when AIB, one of Sir Anthony’s creditors, had held that there were procedural errors in the existing filing and also that the court had no jurisdiction in the matter.

The ruling was delivered by Justice Milton Evans on Friday evening, following a day of legal submissions. He accepted that Sir Anthony should be declared bankrupt under Bahanian law

Sophia Rolle, one of three lawyers representing AIB at the hearing, asked Justice Evans to strike out the original and amended petitions of Sir Anthony on the basis that the proceedings were not properly placed before the court and lack of inherent jurisdiction.

Sir Anthony, a resident of Lyford Cay in The Bahamas, was seeking a formal agreement with his creditors in the country’s courts, known as a composition.

Ms Rolle, in a two hour submisison, argued the bank’s point using section 97 of the Bahamas Bankruptcy Act and by referencing affidavits. Section 97 refers to the law governing compositions and the procedures which are meant to be used in seeking approval from creditors.

John Delaney QC, responded on behalf of Sir Anthony. He said the guidelines for applying for a composition had been properly followed, except for registering his clien’t notice of motion to the Supreme Court, due to an ongoing dispute with AIB, the only creditor to oppose the arrangement.

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The hearing marks a key stage in Sir Anthony’s fight to tackle his personal debts and will offer him protection from his creditors. Sir Anthony, famously known as Ireland’s first billionaire, has been resident in The Bahamas since the 1990s.

The Bahamas Court has already appointed an interim receiver in his case. Today’s hearing related to whether to give the green light to the composition with creditors, effectively a personal insolvency arrangement including an agreement on asset sales and payments to creditors. Sir Anthony has applied for protection from his property being seized. He wants this protection against the seizure of assets to extent to the US and Ireland.

Ansbacher House

The hearing took place in a building called Ansbacher House in the Supreme Court in Nassau.

Sir Anthony’s financial position was dramatically diminished when his shares in Independent News & Media collapsed at the same time as his attempt to rescue Waterford Wedgwood failed.

In an effort to stave off his banks, he was forced to sell his house on Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Square and his family holiday home in Cork, among other assets.

This followed a judgement for €22.5 million granted to AIB against him in June 2014.

The matter has come to court on a number of subsequent occasions, with a recent case focusing on AIB’s demands for more disclosure of information to them about his assets. Sir Anthony still owes AIB €15 million, according to information supplied to the Irish courts.

The attitude of AIB has been a key factor in what is now effectively a battle between different creditors over who should get the sale proceeds from assets sold off.

AIB would make no comment this week on the matter.

Lamech Johnson is a journalist with The Tribune in the Bahamas.