IBRC spurned O’Brien effort to help Siteserv co-founder over personal debt

Draft report finds businessman did not act inappropriately in respect of €1.7m debt

Denis O’Brien intervened with Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) in an attempt to help Siteserv co-founder Brian Harvey in his personal debt issues but was spurned by the lender, a draft report shows.

High Court judge Mr Justice Brian Cregan finds in the draft report that Mr O’Brien did not act inappropriately in “several conversations and a meeting” in respect of Mr Harvey’s €1.7 million IBRC debt with Richard Woodhouse, the senior banker in charge of dealings with the billionaire businessman.

The 2012 sale of Siteserv to Mr O’Brien has long been a matter of controversy because the State-owned IBRC wrote off €119 million of company loans in the deal.

The draft says Mr O’Brien was acting on the basis of “false information” from Mr Harvey, who told him that IBRC agreed a loan write-down and the bank was failing to comply with it. “[T]e Java on Leeson Street, which was supposed to discuss matters not linked to Siteserv.

‘Hijacked’

Mr O’Brien had suggested to Mr Harvey that he come along to make his case but Mr Woodhouse did not expect him. “[Mr Woodhouse] felt that the agenda for this meeting had been ‘hijacked’ and he had been ‘door-stepped’ by Mr O’Brien.”

Mr Harvey gave evidence that he “literally had five minutes” to explain the situation and that Mr Woodhouse “promptly sent me on my way” and referred him to another banker.

Mr O’Brien said in evidence that Mr Woodhouse was clear. “I was testing the fact whether, you know, the blanket position of the bank was no write-off, everybody has to pay,” Mr O’Brien is quoted as saying. He soon realised it was a “firm” no. “You know, it was a red no. Not a black no.”

The draft says IBRC did not agree to any write-down of Mr Harvey’s debt or any linkage to the Siteserv write-down.

In a later chapter, it says Mr Woodhouse maintained a “hard line” about attempts to suggest that Mr Harvey was entitled to a debt reduction and acted properly in such dealings with Mr O’Brien.