Riffing on the row over Garth Brooks’ non-concerts in Croke Park that has consumed local media attention, in the Irish Times John McManus has some pertinent points to make about the long-running saga of who controls the former Quinn Group companies – and the accompanying campaign of attacks and intimidation.
In recent weeks one consortium, Quinn Business Retention Company, which includes former Quinn Group senior executives, has teamed up with Endless LLP, a UK private equity house, to become the
last bidder standing sole bidder for two key components of the manufacturing group. As the Irish Times noted on 8 July
A new name for the two acquired businesses has not been decided but Liam McCaffrey, former chief executive of the Quinn Group, will lead the new business.
Eight former senior executives of the Quinn Group are involved in the acquisition including former group development director Kevin Lunney, former group finance director Dara O’Reilly, and former radiator division chief executive Denis Doogan.
The three local businessmen leading the consortium, called the Quinn Business Retention Company (QBRC), are John McCartin, a Fine Gael councillor who leads Newtowngore Engineering Ltd, John “Bosco” O’Hagan, managing director of the Specialist Joinery Group, and Ernie Fisher, former managing director of Fisher Engineering Ltd. The consortium has said that group founder Sean Quinn, the former billionaire, is not involved in its bid.
Liam McCaffrey was quoted in a subsequent Sunday Independent report
Mr McCaffrey rejected suggestions that he and his partners inadvertently stood to benefit from the absence of rival bidders for the former Quinn businesses owing to the intimidation campaign which had been waged by unknown elements against their current owners. Aventas has logged almost 70 incidents of arson, sabotage and intimidation, including death threats, against senior executives since Mr Quinn was ousted from his business empire in 2011. Last March, the chairman of the Belfast-based Lagan Group, Kevin Lagan, received a death threat on the day his wife died warning him that if his purchase of a Quinn company went ahead, the buyers “would not live to see the benefit of it”.
Referring to the impact of the attacks on his group’s own bid, Mr McCaffrey said: “We’re on record as being unequivocal in condemning it. It has done nothing at all for us. It does nothing to help us attract capital and backing. We are paying a very full price, and believe you me, the bondholders wouldn’t settle for anything less than a full price.”
Asked if he would accept the price being offered for the Quinn businesses would be higher if there were rival bidders, he added: “I don’t think so. Our bid is absolutely in line with market multiples. If there’s any advantage we have, it’s that the majority of us were 20 odd years in the Quinn business and we have a lot of relationships and customer support that we bring to the business.”
The QBRC chief expressed his hope that the campaign of intimidation would end in the event he and his partners managed to secure the former Quinn manufacturing arms.
He said: “We’d be hopeful. Not only do we have the moral support of Sean Quinn and his family, we also have the support of the local community and the vast, vast majority of the staff. It’s a relatively small area that’s hugely proud of what’s been achieved up here over the years and hopefully we can harness all that energy in a very positive way.”
ANYhoo… Back to John McManus in today’s Irish Times
There is no suggestion any of the individuals in the QBRC are involved. They may well be unwitting beneficiaries as other potential buyers have thought twice. Theirs is the only offer on the table and some of the owners of Aventas – former bondholders in the Quinn Group and the liquidator of Anglo Irish Bank – believe their offer does not reflect full value.
In a normal bidding situation they might be expected to hold out for a higher price. But here they may be tempted to take the money and run. Selling the business to a buyer that does not enjoy local support has been made almost impossible.
The investors include the $3.2 billion hedge fund and private equity group Strategic Value Partners, global investment group Blackstone, the Prudential financial services group, and a US teachers’ pension fund. These are the same investors the Government is courting to buy Irish bonds, assets from Nama and set up operations in the IFSC. They have made their unhappiness known to the Government, who seem unwilling or unable to enforce the law in Cavan.
That is not a state of affairs they would expect to find in a competently run country. One suspects their experience will be more damaging to our reputation than events around Croke Park. [added emphasis]