Laois Nationalist – Court approves personal insolvency deal for former newspaper owners

Personal Insolvency Agreements have been approved by the High Court that will allow former newspaper owner John Sheils and his wife, businesswoman Susan Casey to continue making mortgage payments on their Co Kilkenny home until they are in their mid-80s.

The approval, given by Judge Mark Sanfey, will allow the couple to keep their family home Annamult House, in Bennetsbridge, County Kilkenny, which is also their business.

The house was destroyed in a fire in June 2009, but was rebuilt by the couple

The court heard that the couple were using the 7,556-square-foot (702 m²) home, which dates back to the 1700s for events, including weddings. The main secured creditor associated with their home is Start Mortgages DAC.

The court heard that the couple owed around 2.9 million euros to parties including Start Mortgages, Pepper Finance, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Everyday Finance and Promontoria Oyster.

Mortgage repayments

Under the AIP, the couple will continue to pay off the mortgage on their home for the next 336 months or 28 years.

The couple, in their 50s, will fund the PIA by selling assets including a house in Blackrock, Co Dublin and a site in Lucan Co Dublin.

The PIAs, which will run over a 13-month period and see the couple return to solvency once the deal is done, will also see the couple sell and write off some € 70,000 in debt.

The couple had mortgaged their home and other property during the Celtic Tiger years when they believed they were financially secure.

Voice group

Mr Shiels, former editor of the Sunday World newspaper, had been the editor of a group of provincial newspapers known as the Voice Group.

These titles proved to be a financial drain and were dropped due to declining advertising revenue during the 2008-09 financial crash, and resulted in financial hardship for the couple.

Ms. Casey has worked in the fashion industry for many years and has created her own brand “Yellowhammer”.

The couple also ran a newspaper, the Kilkenny Reporter, until that title closed in 2018.

PIAs were formulated by their Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP) Mitchell O’Brien.

Restructured

Seeking their approval, Keith Farry Bl for PIP said the proposed PIAs would see the couple’s debts “restructured rather than written off” to a large extent.

The lawyer said the PIA has been overwhelmingly supported by the couple’s secured and unsecured creditors.

Creditors, the lawyer said, would do better under PIAs than if the couple were forced into bankruptcy.

Justice Sanfey said he was “somewhat hesitant” to approve PIAs.

In particular, he expressed concern that applicants will continue to pay off their mortgages until they reach the age of 80.

However, the judge said he approved them because the proposals were supported by creditors.

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