Richard Curran, brother of Noel Curran, director general of RTE, an organization which made a €70m loss in 2011 (deficit of €17m and loss on pension fund of €50m) and which is reportedly set to declare a deficit alone of €50m in 2012, on Monday this week fronted an hour long programme on the basket case formerly known as Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS), in which goateed, hat-wearing, €1m bonus-keeping Michael Fingleton was the CEO. The programme is available via the RTE Player here.
I should start out by saying that there is much sympathy on here for Michael Fingleton. Why?
If Paul Coulson had failed to sell the Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend for €412m in 2006, where would Paul be today? Well, today, having sold the 25-acre dump for €412m, he is in fact one of Ireland’s richest men, having gone on an acquisition spree post-2006 which most recently included the purchase of the US operation of global packaging company, Saint Gobain, for USD 1.7bn. Meanwhile NAMA has had receivers appointed to the Glass Bottle site and today, is struggling to rent it for €750,000 per annum. So Paul is “Jack the Lad”, lucky to have sold when he did, and doubtless a talented businessman to boot.
Michael Fingleton was on the same track as Paul, but unfortunately was in a train behind. In 2007, Michael did in fact try to sell INBS and had gotten as far as a €1bn bid from Icelandic bank, Landsbanki, when the global financial crisis began, first caused by problems with exposure to sub-prime mortgage lending in the United States. I wonder does Michael today obsess with “what if”. Because if the sale had completed at the €1bn level, Michael would be “Jack the Lad”, hailed as a business titan, and probably one of Ireland’s richest men.
But it was not to be, and Michael must these days put up with being door-stepped by RTE’s David Murphy and must feel harassed at the constant blame disproportionately directed at him. To listen to the news, you would think that Michael personally stole his €1m bonus in 2009, but that was approved by the board operating under the auspices of then-finance minister Brian Lenihan. Ditto goes for the expenses, the nights at the Dorchester in London, the presents to Gerry Gannon and others, who were amongst the bank’s biggest clients, generating 10s of millions of euros in interest each year (until the crash).
Maybe RTE should do a special on a certain national broadcaster, one which is racking up €50m annual losses whilst continuing to pay its staff salaries of over €500,000? And unlike INBS which falls into the realm of archeology at this stage, that certain national broadcaster is a financial disaster right NOW.
Special mention should go to Tom Lyons – pictured above – of the Sunday Independent who contributed heavily to the programme and who will be bringing out his own book on INBS in the Spring. Well done to him on his research and for making the INBS story accessible, though there was some amusement as Tom’s voice became highly pitched as he described the worst excesses of lending at INBS. Probably, only dogs caught everything he was saying, and perhaps for our blood pressure, it is better so.
Probably of most interest to the audience on here will be the Top 30 borrowers who in December 2006 amounted to €5bn of loans in INBS which then had loans of about €10bn total. The Top 30 were listed on the RTE programme and there has been an attempt on here to match companies to individuals – note that the individuals in the right-most column were NOT named by RTE. Some companies weren’t found which might mean they were not registered in Ireland or the UK, and many developers used companies incorporated in jurisdictions like Luxembourg, Delaware, British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar etc. The Top borrower was actually Stephen Conway who is connected to Galliard and Safehaven Limited which together had €411m of loans at the end of 2012, practically all in the UK, one would imagine.