Taggart brothers may avoid bankruptcy after court hearing

Michael Taggart, left , pictured with his brother John at the High Court, Belfast, during a previous hearing
Michael Taggart, left , pictured with his brother John at the High Court, Belfast, during a previous hearing

A former property tycoon once named among Ireland’s richest businessmen is exploring an eleventh-hour alternative to bankruptcy, the High Court heard today.

Michael Taggart and his brother John are facing petitions from Ulster Bank over debts running into millions of pounds.

The pair, from Co Londonderry , were expected to be declared bankrupt at a hearing in Belfast.

But a judge was told they are now exploring the possibility of reaching an alternative resolution with creditors.

Based on insolvency advice, the brothers may put forward proposals for an Individual Voluntary Arrangement.

An IVA involves a binding agreement to pay back outstanding debts, either in full or in part.

If any proposal is formalised it must go before a meeting of all those owed money and approved by a significant majority before bankruptcy proceedings can be stopped.

In court today it was disclosed that some other creditors may be in support of the alternative arrangement.

A lawyer representing Ulster Bank said she had just learned of the proposal.

“There were articles in the news where Mr (Michael) Taggart had acknowledged he was going to be made bankrupt this week,” she added.

Master Kelly, who is presiding in the case, agreed to an adjournment so any IVA application can be drawn up.

She stressed: “Clearly the debtors here are well aware of the seriousness of the situation.”

Proceedings were issued against the Taggarts after they lost a marathon multi-million pound legal battle with Ulster Bank.

In November last year a High Court judge in Belfast held the brothers liable for a 4m euro personal guarantee over land purchases in the Republic of Ireland.

A second personal guarantee of £5m linked to development north of the border also remains outstanding.

The brothers failed in their counter writ which claimed the bank’s actions contributed to the collapse of the Taggart Group.

Once a huge operation on either side of the Irish border, with further interests in Britain, Europe and the United States, the firm was decimated in the 2007 property market crash.

Within a year it had gone into administration.

During a 30-day trial the court heard how the businessmen’s property portfolio once extended to a Luxembourg shopping centre and luxury apartments in Florida and on the borders of Monte Carlo.

Michael Taggart, who spent three weeks in the witness box, described his career path in the construction industry from purchasing a plot for one house to winning an entrepreneur of the year award.

He insisted his company would not have gone bust if bank concerns had been disclosed sooner.

But a judge ruled against him after describing his evidence in the case as being “flawed, inconsistent and implausible”.