High Court grants order to examiner's deal with investor over seven firms employing 330 staff

By Ann O'Loughlin

The High Court has granted orders permitting the examiner of seven companies controlled by Galway businessman Gerry Barrett to enter into an agreement with an investor.

This evening, Ms Justice Marie Baker granted insolvency practitioner Neil Hughes powers under provisions of the 2014 Companies Act to enter into an agreement with an investor called Waltzfire Ltd.

Mr Hughes, represented in court by James Doherty SC, sought the order because the directors of the companies would not sign documents that would allow the investment agreement with Waltzfire to be executed.

The court heard that Mr Hughes feared the agreement with Waltzfire could be lost unless he was granted powers under the Act.

Waltzfire's investment proposal was accepted by Mr Hughes.

The unsuccessful bidder was a company called Besomhill Ltd which the court heard is controlled by Mr Barrett.

Funds from the investment are to be used as part of the examiner's scheme of arrangement with the company's creditors.

Opposing the application Gary McCarthy SC for the companies said the reason the directors had not signed was because they did not have enough information about the Waltzfire proposal.

During his submissions counsel told the court that another bid had been submitted on behalf of Besomhill.

In her ruling the Judge said she was satisfied to grant the orders sought by the examiner. The Judge said the application was properly brought by the examiner in the circumstances.

The Judge said she was taking into account factors including that the examinership is time sensitive, and that the companies had known since November 6th last that Besomhill had not been the successful bidder.

The Judge said she was also accepting an undertaking from the examiner not to sign the investment agreement until 12 midday tomorrow.

Last month, Mr Hughes was confirmed by the Court of Appeal as the examiner to firms connected to several businesses including the Five Star G Hotel, 4-star Meyrick Hotel, apartments a retail park and the Eye Cinema which are all located in Galway City.

The companies are KH Kitty Hall Holdings Ltd, Ml Meyrick Ltd and Mono Trading Ltd, Edward Leisure Assets Unlimited Company, Niche Hotels Unlimited Company, Style City Limited and Radical Properties Unlimited Company.

They were all are part of Mr Barrett's Edward Capital Group, in August.

The companies sought the protection of the court after Deutsche Bank appointed a receiver over the firms, which employ more than 330 full-time and part-time staff.

The bank, which is owed more than €690m by the group after acquiring its loans from Nama in 2015, had opposed the examinership on grounds including it was an attempt by the companies to renege on a 2016 debt settlement agreement which would have resulted in the sale of the group's assets to reduce its debt to the bank.

That was denied by the companies, who argued that Deutsche Bank had breached the settlement agreement.

The firm's directors are Gerry Barrett and Catherine Barrett of Drimbawn House Chestnut Lane, Lower Dangan, Galway.

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