Frank McNamara and Theresa Lowe seek €3m debt write-down

High Court told couple’s financial woes linked to unpaid music royalties

 A file photograph of Theresa Lowe and Frank McNamara at the Launch of Senator Joan Freeman’s  presidential campaign. File photograph: Tom Honan/ The Irish Times.

A file photograph of Theresa Lowe and Frank McNamara at the Launch of Senator Joan Freeman’s presidential campaign. File photograph: Tom Honan/ The Irish Times.

 

Musician Frank McNamara and his wife, television presenter-turned-barrister Theresa Lowe, are seeking a debt write-down of nearly €3 million from the High Court to escape their financial troubles.

The couple are looking for a financial rescue in the form of a court-approved personal insolvency arrangement on total debts amounting to €3.7 million over the objection of their biggest creditor.

The court heard Mr McNamara lost income in the US from his work as an orchestral conductor and music composer, and the Co Meath-based couple borrowed to help them through what they believed were temporary financial difficulties.

US private equity firm Tanager, a so-called vulture fund which bought the couple’s mortgage debt from Bank of Scotland (Ireland), is seeking to block the plan as it would see more than €1.7 million of its debt written off.

The fund, owned by US private equity giant Apollo Global Management, is being offered a lump sum payment of €100,000 by the couple to go towards a new, written-down mortgage of €550,000 on their house in Dunshauglin. The couple currently owe almost €2.3 million on the four-bedroom family home.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald heard that the difficulties arose for Mr McNamara (59), who was the music director of RTÉ’s Late Late Show for 20 years, from US music royalty payments of $987,000 going unpaid.

In total, he claims to be owed €1.237 million in unpaid payments for his work as a conductor and composer. Mr McNamara was the arranger and producer for two consecutive Irish winners of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Quiz

Ms Lowe (56), a well known figure from her work on TV and radio, presented the TV quiz Where In The World? in the late 1980s and early 1990s and studied law at the time at Kings Inns in Dublin.

The couple, who are both self-employed and have two dependent children, are seeking a six-year personal insolvency arrangement under which they would write off about €2.9 million of debt.

They are offering to make €236,000 available to their creditors from Mr McNamara’s inheritance - the sale of his parents’ home that he owns with his sister - and disposal of five acres of land next to their home.

The court heard that the couple remortgaged and sold a number of buy-to-let properties when they found themselves in financial trouble and were left owing €530,000 in residual debt to Bank of Ireland.

Keith Farry BL, for the couple, told the court that Mr McNamara had been making “very substantial income” from his work as a music conductor in the US. He said that Mr McNamara ran unsuccessfully in Dublin South Central in the 2007 general election, adding to his financial difficulties.

The recession added to the couple’s problems and Mr McNamara could not afford to travel to the US as the American orchestras that employed him could no longer pay his travel and accommodation expenses.

‘Profit’

Mr Farry said that it was “unsurprising” for Tanager to be raising technical objections in the case because, unlike regular banks, investment funds “simply don’t do long-term restructuring” and their typical investment strategy in the Irish market was “buy the debt, take the asset, leave with a profit as quickly as possible.”

Given the professions they worked in, the couple would be able to work past the age of 70, he said.

Rudi Neuman Shanahan BL, for Tanager, questioned why Mr McNamara’s difficulties dating back 16 years were being cited in support the arrangement and queried whether the couple could work until 78 and 75 respectively.

Mr Farry said Tanager’s counsel had “raised every technical objection under the sun” but at no point did he said that the arrangement would be “unfair” to the fund or did he admit that it would be paid less from the McNamaras in bankruptcy.

The case continues before the court on Monday.