High Court writes off €18.6m owed by property consultant

A property consultant and one-time developer and auctioneer has had debts of €18.6m written off in return for a contribution of just €31,000 to his creditors.

att Bruton (52), a director of agricultural waste disposal firm Emk Environmental Limited, secured the write down under a debt settlement arrangement (DSA) approved by the High Court.

A DSA is a debt resolution mechanism which can be used to deal with unsecured debts, unpaid loans not backed with collateral.

According to arrangement documents put before the court, Mr Bruton, from Sandymount in Dublin, got into financial difficulties following the collapse of the property market in the late 2000s, leaving him with significant debts.

These included €6.3m owed to AIB, €6.25m owed to Nama and just over €6m owed to Bank of Ireland.

The debts included sums borrowed to purchase development land at Sion Road in Kilkenny, in Athy, Co Kildare, and in Edenderry, Co Offaly, as well as a bridging loan from Bank of Ireland.

The debt settlement arrangement was devised by personal insolvency practitioner Jim Stafford of Friel Stafford.

It was presented to the court by Keith Farry, counsel for the practitioner.

Mr Bruton’s creditors would have received nothing at all if he was made bankrupt.

The deal was voted for by the majority of creditors.

His €31,000 contribution to creditors is being funded by family and friends.

Under the arrangement, a €540,000 mortgage debt remains and will be subject to repayments. However, the vast majority of his total debts of €19.2m are being written off.

The arrangement was one of three large write-offs approved by Mr Justice Cian Ferriter in the High Court on Monday.

In two other cases €2.7m and €1.3m were also written off under uncontested personal insolvency arrangements.

Mr Bruton’s arrangement is the second largest debt write-down approved by the High Court this year.

It is only slightly less than the €19m written off for Co Cavan-based property developer Eamon Murray (59). His financial difficulties arose from the demise of his property and construction development firm Greenspan Estates.

Qualifying debtors’ chances of securing arrangements have increased significantly in the past year amid less resistance from creditors to debt deals.

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