Denis O’Brien company buys ‘Buy and Sell’

Rival bids submitted in Supreme Court case

Denis O'Brien, Ireland's largest owner of private media assets, made a successful bid yesterday for the company that publishes Buy and Sell, in a process conducted through the Supreme Court.

Bids from a subsidiary of Mr O'Brien's Communicorp and Midland Web Printing Ltd, were made for Buzreel Ltd, in liquidation, at just before 4pm.

Bernard Dunleavy, for liquidator Neil Hughes, told the court that the bid from the Communicorp subsidiary, Dermica Ltd, was recommended.

Mr Justice Frank Clarke said there seemed to be a "very significant difference" between the two bids and that as a result of the decision it appeared some creditors were going to get considerable sums over and above what they would have otherwise received.


The figures submitted were not disclosed in court.

In April, the High Court was told that a bid from Midland of €303,000 had topped the €267,000 Dermica bid.

Increased offer

However, the court was told that when Midland had been unable to put up the cash within 24 hours, Mr Hughes had turned to Dermica, which had then increased its bid to €311,000 and posted all of the money in cash. Mr Justice

Gerard Hogan

, in the High Court, then ruled that a fresh bidding process should be held, with unconditional sealed offers submitted by the following Monday. This led to a conditional approval for the Midland bid, but Dermica brought an appeal to the Supreme Court after making a revised offer.

Yesterday in the Supreme Court, John O’Donnell SC, for Dermica, said its revised bid could be considered by the liquidator, despite the process put in place by Mr Justice Hogan. He said Midland had made a conditional bid when they had been asked to make an unconditional one, and had not produced all of its money by the 5pm deadline. Mr Dunleavy, for the liquidator, said the primary focus for the court should be maximising the return for the company’s creditors.

‘Not valid’


Andrew Whelan

, for Midland, said it did not matter that the revised bid from Dermica was larger, as it was not a valid bid. It had been made after Dermica had been told it had not been successful.

After a short break yesterday, Mr Justice Clarke, sitting with Ms Justice Mary Laffoy and Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, suggested that both parties would make fresh bids at 3.50pm, and the court would sit again at 4pm. The bids would have to be accompanied with adequate proof the money was available.

All transactions deemed to be media mergers are examined by the Competition Authority to see if there are commercial anti-competition reasons for objecting to them. If there are not, then the issue goes to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton to see if there are reasons to object on public interest grounds.

A spokesman for Mr Bruton said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the Buy and Sell case as the minister might have to exercise a quasi-judicial function in relation to the deal.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent