IVAN Yates could be the next high-profile businessman to jump ship to Britain to take advantage of more lenient bankruptcy laws after admitting he is unlikely to get through 2012 without his creditors coming calling.
The broadcaster, writer and former government minister lost his Celtic Bookmakers chain this year, leaving him liable for more than €4 million in personally guaranteed loans.
“I am fully expecting to go bankrupt in 2012, whether it’s in Ireland or another European jurisdiction,” he said in an interview for Image magazine. “I have to take the view that by going bankrupt, I will at some point get a fresh start.
“I am actively considering moving to Swansea. People will say I’m doing a runner on a technicality but it’s gone way beyond reputational issues.”
If he goes, he’ll be following in the footsteps of businessmen like Cork developer John Fleming who was discharged from bankruptcy last month after moving to Britain last year and former billionaire Sean Quinn, who has applied for bankruptcy in the North.
British law allows people residing in that country to be discharged from bankruptcy after just a year, compared to 12 years here and a ruling by a bankruptcy court there is binding in Ireland.
Although reform of Irish bankruptcy law is promised in the new year, it is still expected the British option will be quicker and easier.
Mr Yates has been an outspoken critic of the Irish system, describing it in his Irish Examiner column as “purgatory” and empathising with entrepreneurs who file for bankruptcy abroad.
In one column he wrote: “All agree that Irish bankruptcy law is antediluvian, outdated, penal — as it treats debt default as a crime — punishable by 12 years of penury and serfdom.”
Mr Yates, a presenter with Newstalk radio, has a pension from his 20 years as a Fine Gael TD for Wexford, during which time he also served as agriculture minister, but his financial position is far removed from when he had 63 betting shops and a turnover of €200m.
He said he would wait to see what changes are made to the bankruptcy laws here but, describing the end of his business as “heartbreaking”, signalled he did not want to spend any longer than absolutely necessary recovering from the loss.
“You’re not only dealing with the job losses, the relationships, but you’re dealing with the fact that the burning fire in you is extinguished and you look back and say ‘what a fucking waste of time’.”
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