Category: Archive

Facing debts, Sheeran seeks court protection

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Harry Keaney

New York-based businessman Ed Sheeran, unable to meet personal financial guarantees arising from a proposed $40 million hotel and golf resort in his native County Roscommon, has, according to a statement he issued Monday, been “left with no choice” but to avail himself “of the debt relief laws.”

Sheeran, from Kilglass, Co. Roscommon, was unsuccessful in his effort to proceed with plans to develop the hotel and golf resort on the shores of Lough Key, near the town of Boyle in north Roscommon. That left him facing debts of “a couple of hundred thousand dollars,” including a figure believed to be between _40,000 and _58,000 to a local group in north Roscommon called the Arigna Enterprise Development Fund. That group is expected to hold a meeting in Boyle later this month to discuss what to do about the money it is owed.

The Arigna Enterprise Development Fund administers a fund set up some years ago in the wake of the closure of the Arigna Mines, a one-time important employment source that straddles the Roscommon, Leitrim and Sligo border. The purpose of the fund was to ease the economic hardship caused by the closure of the mines. Contributors included the Irish utility company the Electricity Supply Board and, later, the government. A spokesperson for the fund was unavailable for comment as the Echo went to press.

In addition, the Irish Tourist Board had given approval in principle for a major grant for Sheeran’s project but final approval was withheld.

Sheeran, who’s 56, had set up a company called the Rockfield Corporation to pursue the Roscommon project, but that company has no assets, according to Sheeran.

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Sheeran said that seeking the protection of the courts was “the last thing he wanted to do,” but, he added, he had to protect his family. He explained that his problems arose because he had made personal guarantees on loans for the proposed Roscommon project. “I had guaranteed it, and when I hadn’t it, it wasn’t there to pay back,” he said.

A legal source, who wished not to be named, told the Echo Tuesday that Sheeran made a petition some months ago to the Southern District of New York bankruptcy court. His case was adjudicated on and he received relief under the bankruptcy code. The source said it wasn’t that he declared bankruptcy but rather that the court adjudicated on his petition and gave him relief in light of his financial situation and his good faith efforts.

No connection to Tara

Sheeran, a former Chase Bank executive and grand marshal of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1990, is perhaps best known in New York as the former president of Tara Circle, and later chairman of its board. Tara, an umbrella group for an array of Irish American organizations, began about seven years ago with plans to establish a $14 million cultural, educational and sporting center in Briarcliff Manor, in Westchester County.

Sheeran, who is no longer Tara’s chairman, emphatically discounted any association between his Roscommon difficulties and his past role as Tara’s leader. “There was never any connection to Tara Circle,” he said.

Local opposition and lack of financial backers resulted in Tara’s failure to acquire the King’s College campus in Briarcliff. Irish groups that invested $5,000 each to become Tara charter members, as well as individuals throughout the tri-state area, contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Tara’s effort, virtually all of which was spent on fees to planners, lawyers, consultants and other professionals in the effort to appease opposition in Briarcliff and acquire the King’s College site. In that respect, at least, it was a situation not dissimilar to that in Roscommon.

Tara is currently proceeding with plans to establish a much smaller headquarters in the old Elizabeth Seton College in northwest Yonkers. A formal ceremony announcing Tara’s acquisition of the Yonkers property was expected around last St. Patrick’s Day but has not yet taken place.

Although Sheeran was unsuccessful in his effort to pursue the hotel and leisure complex in Roscommon, a somewhat similar but smaller project is now being pursued by Coillte, Ireland’s forestry authority. Coillte owns the Lough Key Forest Park. That property, together with land acquired from adjoining owners, was to have been the site for the proposed hotel and golf resort development.

Coillte is expected to seek planning permission this summer from Roscommon County Council for a _12 million 150-bedroom hotel development in the Lough Key Forest Park.


Contacted Monday evening in relation to reports that he had sought bankruptcy protection, Sheeran issued the following statement:

“For a period of eight years I worked as president of Rockfield Corporation in trying to develop a hotel and golf resort at Lough Key, Co. Roscommon, Ireland. During these eight years, money was spent and debt incurred in funding feasibility studies, architectural services, land options, engineers’ study, environmental report, attorneys, accountants , general office expenses, travel, consultants, planning application process, defending community objections, interest expenses, etc, etc.

“In 1996, the Irish Tourist Board offered a grant for the project. That grant was subject to a host of conditions including unconditional approval of the overall debt. This requirement had a 90-day expiration date.”

The statement continued: “Rockfield’s debt funding source found this requirement completely unacceptable as there are always conditions that would be in existence until the day of closing. The tourist board refused to change its position and ultimately withdrew its offer within the 90-day timeframe.

“Protests by a local group at Coillte’s head office, combined with the tourist board’s decision to withdraw the grant funds, prompted Coillte, the owner of the property, to withdraw its offer to sell. Obviously this decision prevented Rockfield from pursuing the project further.”

The statement added: “Within a short period of time, demands were made on me, personally, by creditors to satisfy debt incurred. I was not in a financial position to satisfy these demands. I sought the guidance of former Federal Court Judge Howard Buschman III. After reviewing the situation and my financial position, Judge Buschman III advised me that I had no choice under the circumstances but to avail myself of the debt relief laws.

“In August 1997, I accepted Judge Buschman’s guidance and advice. The matter was dispersed through the courts several months ago.

“Now, as my family and I try to move forward with our lives we ask that our privacy be respected,” the statement concluded.

In his telephone interview with the Echo Monday evening, Sheeran said he had gone through a “decade of bad luck.” A spokesperson for the tourist board in Dublin said Tuesday he felt it would be inappropriate to make any comment on Sheeran’s situation.

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