Liquidator appointed to Morrison over unpaid rent

A PROVISIONAL liquidator has been appointed by the High Court to Dublin’s Morrison Hotel after one of its owners, Hugh O’Regan, withdrew the hotel operating company’s defence to a claim by an Anglo Irish Bank appointed receiver for €5.7 million unpaid rent.

Liquidator Derek Earl will operate the hotel pending his replacement by a new operating company and it will remain open for business.

Mr O’Regan sat impassively in the back of the court yesterday with as Mr Justice Brian McGovern entered judgment against Morrison Hotel Ltd for €5.73m.

Paul Sreenan, counsel for receiver Martin Ferris, then applied to the judge to appoint Mr Earl of Grant Thornton as provisional liquidator to MHL on grounds it is unable to pay the €5.7m judgment and is therefore insolvent.

Mr Justice McGovern said he was satisfied to appoint Mr Earl and returned the matter to July 17 when the court will deal with a petition to wind up MHL.

Earlier, Martin Hayden, counsel for MHL, said Mr O’Regan had reflected overnight on matters in the court and comments by the judge and was no longer pursuing a defence.

In those circumstances, judgment could be entered, Mr Hayden said.

Mr Justice McGovern said he understood fully the “distress and upset of Mr O’Regan in seeing what was a very large enterprise disappearing before his eyes”.

He said he had become concerned as to how matters were progressing in the proceedings and was concerned Mr O’Regan could get into further difficulties “if things did not happen soon”.

After Mr O’Regan had given evidence to the court on Thursday, the judge suggested Mr O’Regan consider his position.

After the proceedings yesterday, Mr O’Regan shook hands with Mr Ferris before leaving the court. He said he was “upset” but did not wish to comment further at this stage.

In evidence, Mr O’Regan said he almost suffered a mental breakdown last year when Mr Ferris was appointed receiver over his business empire and is now living on €3,000 a month from the Morrison Hotel. His wife is also working.

When Anglo appointed the receiver, “everything else came down“, including a project to build a hotel in Kilternan, Co Dublin, for which he received a €180m loan from Irish Nationwide just last year. He said he was very concerned about the future of the Morrison Hotel, had designed it with John Rocha, and wanted it “treated with some level of dignity”. He was “trying to fight for survival” against a big corporation.

The Morrison Hotel is owned by Mr O’Regan, developer Patrick Kelly and Patrick Dunning and was operated by MHL. The directors of MHL are Mr O’Regan, Martin Conroy and Dolores Barry.

In October 2006, MHL entered into two leases with the landlords relating to the hotel and an adjoining building, known as the Morrison Hotel Extension. MHL was to pay €1.4m rent per annum quarterly to Mr O’Regan for the Morrison Hotel and a further sum under the extension lease.

Mr Ferris said his solicitors wrote to MHL on July 30 last advising all future rent should be paid to him as receiver. MHL later said it was not liable for rent because of agreements entered into with Mr O’Regan in July 2008 and sometime during or after April 2009.

Mr Ferris contended MHL’s claim it was entitled to offset money spent on renovations of the property against rent were “contrived” and MHL had no bona fide defence to the rent claim.

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