Former La Stampa owner labels receiver ‘a thug’ in court
Posted on 29th May 2019 at 21:27
Louis Murray taking action against AIB and receiver appointed to Dawson Street venue
Former La Stampa restaurant owner, Louis Murray, has told the High Court he had “never been confronted by such a thug” as the receiver who took control of his Dawson Street, Dublin, business. He was giving evidence in his action against AIB and a receiver appointed by it over his properties, including a hotel and a bar, when he and his company Balieboro Springwater (in receivership) failed to meet an immediate repayment demand for a €19.8 million debt.
The court heard that for a number of months after the receivership, Mr Murray sought investors and eventually got one who was prepared to pay €21.5 million for the business. Mr Murray, whose business had suffered in the economic crash and who was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, claims AIB and receiver Declan McDonald breached an agreement he had that 35/36 Dawson Street, housing the businesses, be sold on a “consensual” basis. The defendants deny his claims.
On Wednesday Mr Murray was asked by his counsel John Fitzgerald if he felt the receiver, Mr McDonald, helped him in getting investors.
“I think the receiver acted in such a reprehensible and evil way against me from day one.
“And I did use the word reprehensible as I have never been confronted by such a thug in my life.”
Mr Murray said at one stage he had 12 parties interested in buying a very valuable asset. He said Mr McDonald “greatly damaged this asset beyond belief”. This included removing a builder from doing work on an extension of the successful “Sam’s Bar” which would have boosted revenue, he said. He said the “Oscar stuff” was when Mr McDonald later put the Dawson Street properties up for sale with a guide price of €15 million.
Mr Murray said he had spent €22 million on the premises from when he acquired it in 1989 to 1992. He said the first agreement breach by AIB was when it appointed the receiver in October 2014 just shortly after he had a meeting at which the “consensual sale” agreement was made.
Asked about his reaction to that decision, Mr Murray began to cry.
One of his daughters came up to the witness box at the request of Mr Justice David Barniville and handed him a glass of water before he said he was able to continue giving evidence.
‘A very personal betrayal’
He said he viewed the receivership as “a very personal betrayal” after 24 years of what had been “a hugely successful” business.
The receivership had some very immediate effects, including having his electricity and gas cut off and leaving him unable to buy food or pay his medical bills, he said. After getting a firm offer of a purchase for €21.5 million from Olympia Investments in May 2015, Mr Murray believed he had met all the criteria to pay off the AIB debt. He said at a meeting with AIB officials, at which he had presented proof of funding, he was congratulated on saving his business and got “hugs and kisses” from one of the officials before he left.
“I was on a high,” he said.
That same afternoon, there followed a series of emails between Mr McDonald and the AIB staff in which concern was expressed about a €5 million funding element to the buyout which was to come on the strength of other assets held by Mr Murray, including what the court heard was his “substantial” Killiney home. AIB and the receiver said they would need more information about that but Mr Murray said he was never asked for more information.
The properties were advertised for sale the next day and were eventually sold for €17.5 million which Mr Murray described as an “appalling” price. The hearing continues.
Share this post: