Dividend payouts to the Co Wicklow-based businessman and his wife, Theresa Dunne, are disclosed in new accounts for Realm Communications Ltd, recently filed with the Companies Office. The accounts confirm that the two shareholders received payouts three days before retiring as directors of the firm on June 29, 2009.
Realm Communications operates controversial premium-rate phone lines and Mr Higgins has previously announced his intention to be the first Irish person in space on board Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactia. He also became involved in a well-known on-air spat with Pat Kenny over the operation of Irish Psychics Live.
The RTÉ broadcaster stood over the report and the manner of his interview with Mr Higgins. However two complaints by Mr Higgins and a psychic working at Irish Psychics Live to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) were upheld.
The premium phone charges by Irish Psychics Live have also featured on RTÉ’s Liveline programme.
Callers to Irish Psychics Live are charged €2.40 per minute and the company’s website boasts that Irish Psychics Live “is the single most successful service of its kind anywhere in the world”.
Mr Higgins established the business in 1998, seven years after the former journalist set up his first phone line business offering weather forecasts for 42p a minute.
The website states that Irish Psychics Live “is operated by genuine Celtic psychics, the most psychic race in the world. Only the most spiritually gifted individuals are selected to participate in this site”.
Its terms and conditions state that “users should note that the company does not make any specific claims about the abilities of its readers and does not imply or mean to imply that any or all of its readers are capable of foreseeing or predicting future events, other than as a matter of personal opinion”.
The dividend payout reduced Realm Communications’ cash pile of €8.6m, built up over years of successive profits, to a negative balance of €20 in 2010.
The company was bought out by Gavin Hickey and Maxine Payne. The filings for the 12 months to the end of April 2010 show that the firm recorded a post-tax loss of €315,225 after recording a post-tax profit of €1.1m in 2009.
The abridged accounts show that the firm plunged into the red after its gross profit declined sharply from €4.27m in 2009 to €1.1m in 2010.