Receiver reinstated at 5-star Muckross Park Hotel

Court hears Bill Cullen forgot he personally owned half the hotel

The High Court has reinstated a receiver to the five-star Muckross Park Hotel run by businessman Bill Cullen and his partner Jackie Lavin.

Receiver Declan Taite intends to continue operating the hotel, which employs 106 people, as a going concern.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton yesterday declined the couple's application to confirm an examiner to allow for finalisation of survival proposals after hearing the three companies seeking court protection owned half of the hotel and Mr Cullen owned the other half. The court had no jurisdiction to restructure the finances of an individual, he said.

ACCBank, owed some €9.2 million, had opposed examinership and argued there was material non-disclosure of matters concerning ownership of the lands and creation of a leaseback arrangement relating to a new wing of the hotel built on those lands.

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Mr Justice Charleton said he would, with regret, refuse examinership. From what he had heard about the hotel in the past year it had a very good possibility of survival but the court could not restructure an individual's finances.

Going concern
As the receiver wished to continue the hotel as a going concern, receivership would achieve the same as examinership, he said. Mr Taite was reinstated to take control of the hotel from 4pm yesterday.

Since the three companies sought court protection last month, the judge said, a complicating factor had come to light regarding ownership of the hotel, particularly the new wing built in 2007 containing bedrooms, suites, the spa and wedding function rooms.

Earlier, the judge was told Mr Cullen forgot he owned part of the lands on which the wing was built and had not deliberately withheld that information when the court was asked last month to discharge Mr Taite in favour of examinership.

John O’Donnell SC, for the companies, said Mr Cullen was under incredible pressure to assemble documents in a short space of time to unseat the receiver and forgot he made a purchase of the lands in 2005.

The bank had been happy with the way the hotel was being run but last month, demanded payment of loans, he said. Two days later it told Mr Cullen and Ms Lavin the receiver was waiting in the hotel car park to take it over and Mr Cullen was shocked by that.

Mr Cullen offered his abject apology for what had happened – related to the lands ownership – but that was not concealed as the bank already knew about it, counsel added.

Mr Justice Charleton last month ordered Mr Taite be replaced by an interim examiner, Kieran McCarthy, over Muckross Park Hotel Limited, Boisdale Holdings Ltd, Silvermire Properties Ltd and certain assets of Bill Cullen.

Expressions of interest
Mr Justice Charleton said he was not prepared to conclude Mr Cullen was deceitful with the court. However, there was an obligation to make full disclosure and there was a breach in putting matters before the court, he said. The court earlier heard an investor was willing to put €4 million into the hotel and there were 16 expressions of interest in investing in it.