Broad­caster Yates to retire af­ter set­tling AIB dis­pute

Broad­caster re­lieved at re­turn to house bought by his great-grand­fa­ther in 1890

The Irish Times - - Front Page - COLM KEENA Le­gal Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent ‘I was a poster boy for bankruptcy tourism’: page 3

The broad­caster Ivan Yates (60) has set­tled his long-run­ning dis­pute with AIB over own­er­ship of his 150-acre farm and fam­ily home near En­nis­cor­thy, Co Wex­ford, on terms that mean he can now retire.

Court records show that the case, which was to open in the High Court and was ex­pected to last two weeks, was set­tled through me­di­a­tion on Jan­uary 31st. Con­tacted by The Ir­ish Times, the for­mer Fine Gael min­is­ter said he was not al­lowed to dis­close the terms of the set­tle­ment but he said he and his fam­ily were “ab­so­lutely de­lighted”.

“The ac­tion as far as we are con­cerned has been com­pletely suc­cess­ful as the Yates’s will be re­main­ing in Black­stoops.”

His great-grand­fa­ther brought the house in Black­stoops

in 1890 and his fam­ily is the fifth gen­er­a­tion to live on the prop­erty.

Celtic Book­mak­ers

The fight to save the prop­erty “has been the most im­por­tant thing in my life for the last decade, since Celtic Book­mak­ers went into re­ceiver­ship in Jan­uary 2011”, he said. Per­sonal guar­an­tees given to sup­port AIB loans taken out by Celtic Book­mak­ers led to Mr Yates mov­ing to Wales in 2012 to avail of the shorter bankruptcy regime there. The bankruptcy trustees ap­pointed by the Welsh court sub­se­quently sold the Black­stoops prop­erty to AIB. How­ever, the broad­caster’s fam­ily was able to stay in the prop­erty be­cause of the right of his mother to con­tinue liv­ing there.

In 2017, Mr Yates and his wife Deirdre, against whom AIB se­cured a ¤1.6 mil­lion judg­ment or­der in 2016, took pro­ceed­ings to chal­lenge the trustees sale of the prop­erty, cit­ing leg­is­la­tion gov­ern­ing the right to the fam­ily home.The set­tle­ment terms are con­fi­den­tial but meant that the ra­dio and TV broad­caster now in­tends to wind down his ca­reer when his con­tract runs out in Au­gust.

Broad­caster and for­mer Fine Gael min­is­ter Ivan Yates is plan­ning to retire this sum­mer and live a qui­eter life on the fam­ily farm fol­low­ing the set­tle­ment of a le­gal dis­pute with AIB over own­er­ship of his Wex­ford prop­erty.

He says he is un­able to put into words the in­ten­sity of the bat­tle he has had to wage over the past decade to pre­vent the loss of the prop­erty to the bank, and to do so while all the time be­ing so in the pub­lic eye.

“I’ve turned 60 now and I’ve been in the pub­lic eye since I was elected to the Dáil in ’81,” he says.

“I was a coun­cil­lor in 1979, so be­tween pol­i­tics, busi­ness and the me­dia, I have given it a fair stint.”

He was just 21 when first elected to the Dáil. He served as min­is­ter for agri­cul­ture, food and forestry in the 1994-1997 rain­bow coali­tion led by John Bruton. Af­ter leav­ing pol­i­tics, Yates went into busi­ness, saw that busi­ness col­lapse and, af­ter go­ing through bankruptcy in Wales, de­vel­oped a new ca­reer in broad­cast­ing.

His wife, Deirdre, is fin­ish­ing her ca­reer as a pri­mary school teacher in July, and now that the cou­ple have set­tled a mas­sive High Court dis­pute over their home in Black­stoops, En­nis­cor­thy, Yates is in a po­si­tion to wind down his broad­cast­ing ca­reer.

He presents New­stalk’s driv­e­time pro­gramme, The Hard Shoul­der, and presents with Matt Cooper The Tonight Show on Vir­gin Me­dia One. Yates lives in Dublin dur­ing the week be­cause of his broad­cast­ing com­mit­ments.

“There is no way that if Deirdre lives in En­nis­cor­thy that I’d be liv­ing in Dublin, so this is a real mo­ment, one of the hap­pi­est things that has hap­pened in my life.”

Yates left pol­i­tics in 2001 and be­came in­volved in the rapid ex­pan­sion of Celtic Book­mak­ers, a chain of bet­ting shops. How­ever, the busi­ness went into re­ceiver­ship in 2011, and AIB pur­sued him for debts of ¤3.6 mil­lion. He went to live in Wales and availed of the bankruptcy laws there, which were much less harsh than the regime that ex­isted in Ire­land at the time. He de­scribed the trauma of see­ing his world col­lapse around him in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Full On (2014). “When I went to Wales in 2012, it was a 12-year life sen­tence to go bank­rupt in Ire­land un­der its dra­co­nian, Vic­to­rian laws. “And when I came back in 2013, I wasted no op­por­tu­nity to ex­co­ri­ate govern­ments, politi­cians and the sys­tem to adopt the UK In­sol­vency Act 1986 that gave peo­ple a fresh start, al­lowed ev­ery­one to get on with the rest of their lives, and al­lowed clo­sure for the fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.”

At the time of his move to Wales, Yates came in for a lot of crit­i­cism. “I started out as a poster boy for bankruptcy tourism and [got] mas­sive odium about that, and re­ally to this day, peo­ple have never re­ally got over that in terms of my po­lit­i­cal life and pub­lic life.”

How­ever, he is pleased the law here has been changed so it now re­flects the UK regime, some­thing that has “com­pletely trans­formed” the sit­u­a­tion of tens of thou­sands of peo­ple, he says.

At the time of his move to Wales, it was not clear whether it would lead to the loss of the Black­stoops prop­erty, and even now he can­not say defini­tively whether, with hind­sight, the move was a good one. “That’s a com­plex ques­tion.”

Yates and his wife had signed per­sonal guar­an­tees for Celtic Book­mak­ers’ bor­row­ings. In 2016 the bank was awarded a ¤1.6 mil­lion judg­ment or­der against Deirdre.

The bankruptcy trustees ap­pointed by the Welsh courts got pos­ses­sion over the Yates fam­ily home and 150-acre farm in Black­stoops, but could not evict Yates be­cause his mother, who is now 88, had the right to con­tinue liv­ing on the prop­erty.

“I mean we were lit­er­ally home­less, in that we didn’t own our own home,” Yates says. “Be­cause of my mother’s life in­ter­est, we have al­ways re­mained there, and it has been our fam­ily home, but the sit­u­a­tion was that my bankruptcy did im­peril the home.”

The house was bought by his great-grand­fa­ther, John F Yates, in 1890. “I am the fifth gen­er­a­tion – my fam­ily are – of Yate­ses at Black­stoops, En­nis­cor­thy, and this [bat­tle over the prop­erty] has been the most im­por­tant thing in my life for the last decade, since Celtic Book­mak­ers went into re­ceiver­ship in Jan­uary 2011.”

In 2017 Ivan and Deirdre took a com­plex High Court ac­tion against AIB and the bankruptcy trustees, chal­leng­ing their tak­ing pos­ses­sion of the En­nis­cor­thy prop­erty on a num­ber of grounds.

The case was to go ahead on Fe­bru­ary 4th, and was ex­pected to last two weeks. But court records show it was set­tled on Jan­uary 31st. Yates says he can­not dis­cuss the set­tle­ment.

“There is a con­fi­den­tial­ity clause. There will be no fur­ther lit­i­ga­tion. The mat­ter has been re­solved,” is all he will say when ques­tioned on the de­tail. But the key point for him is that he will con­tinue to live at Black­stoops.

Ivan and Deirdre have four chil­dren, aged 25-31, and a grand­child who lives in Co Wex­ford.

Mas­sive re­lief

Set­tling the case “is a mas­sive re­lief to my mother, my ex­tended fam­ily and my own four chil­dren. I re­ally want to thank my le­gal team, En­sor O’Con­nor Solic­i­tors, a small fam­ily prac­tice in Wex­ford, and my se­nior coun­sel, Jerry Healy, and Peter Bland SC and Paula McCarthy BL.”

“This al­lows us to get on with the fi­nal phase of our life, and I in­tend to step back from me­dia work.” His broad­cast­ing con­tracts run up to Au­gust, and he plans to step back then, though he has not yet de­cided on the full de­tails.

The ag­gres­sive ap­proach adopted by Yates on the party lead­ers’ de­bate on Vir­gin Me­dia One dur­ing the gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign pro­voked a lot of com­ment and no small amount of crit­i­cism. He be­gan the de­bate by ac­cus­ing the seven party lead­ers in front of him as be­ing a “bunch of char­la­tans and chancers”.

But he does not re­gret his ap­proach. “I hon­estly be­lieve that the 1977 gen­eral elec­tion prom­ises caused a decade of re­ces­sion, and the 2007 elec­tion di­rectly con­trib­uted to the crash.”

He dis­likes what he de­scribes as the “Dutch auc­tion” as­pect of the elec­tion cam­paign just fin­ished, and feels the me­dia did not prop­erly hold the par­ties to ac­count over the prom­ises they were mak­ing. “And the pub­lic lapped up the prom­ises. They al­ways do.”

“I have been in­volved in 14 gen­eral elec­tions, and my big fear was history re­peat­ing it­self. I ac­tu­ally don’t mind a few brick­bats and I don’t mind so­cial me­dia flak, that never both­ers me.”

The politi­cians “were putting their own pop­u­lar­ity and short-term party in­ter­ests above the na­tional in­ter­est, and I sort of knew that the Depart­ment of Fi­nance were ab­so­lutely do­ing their nut about this, and couldn’t say any­thing.”

His plan for re­tire­ment is to “take life a bit eas­ier”.

PHO­TO­GRAPHS: CYRIL BYRNE AND PA­TRICK BROWNE

Ivan Yates and his wife Deirdre took a com­plex High Court ac­tion against AIB and the bankruptcy trustees, chal­leng­ing their tak­ing pos­ses­sion of the En­nis­cor­thy prop­erty Black­stoops (in­set).

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