American giant threatens to pull plug on family after purchasing their loans.
Ann Keane is the owner and proprietor of Aberdeen Lodge in Dublin, Ireland. The Bed and Breakfast is home to her and her two children Simone (10) and Blake (4). It is also her livelihood, her only means of earning an income and providing for her family.
A trained chef and experienced hotel manager, Ann always dreamed of owning her own Bed and Breakfast where she could provide relaxed, yet top quality service to her guests. In the past few years, she has certainly achieved this, and at one stage Aberdeen Lodge was rated No. 1 in Dublin on TripAdvisor, stealing the top spot from the prestigious 5-Star Merrion Hotel.
However, Ann is now in a battle to keep her home and livelihood with the world’s richest and most powerful financial institution, Goldman Sachs.
In the mid-nineties, Ann met her partner Pat Halpin and they began their new lives together, running Aberdeen Lodge and starting a family. In 2000, Pat also began to realize his dream of opening a hotel. He brought forward plans to build Blake’s Hotel in Ballsbridge. He purchased a row of houses with a view to turning them into the hotel and received a mortgage from Irish Nationwide, a leading Irish mortgage provider.
The plans were progressing well, and the building was close to completion when the global financial crash occurred in 2008. The crash hit Ireland and its property market hard. Unemployment soared, and the property market collapsed, leaving most Irish banks and mortgage providers with huge debts they could not recover.
Irish Nationwide was particularly exposed as it had been engaging in extremely risky and sloppy lending practices. In 2009 it lost €2.5 billion and required a Government bailout of €5.4 billion to stay afloat.
The severe impact of the recession was also felt in Aberdeen Lodge. As Ann says:
‘’It was like the roof had fallen on our heads. The tourist numbers collapsed, and it was a painfully hard struggle to keep Aberdeen Lodge open.’’
At this stage, Pat’s dream of opening Blake’s Hotel was in serious trouble. The scale of Irish Nationwide’s difficulties began to emerge as it rapidly began to crumble and fall apart. They were now seeking to recoup the debt from the project before building was completed. They instigated an internal review on how best to recoup their losses and decided that the best course of action was to allow Pat to continue drawing down the mortgage to finish the building works so that they could sell the hotel.
In order to draw down the funding, Pat received detailed instructions from Irish Nationwide to set up two companies, Crossplan Investments and Elektron Holdings. Crossplan then owned the Blake’s Hotel project while Elektron owned Aberdeen Lodge. Pat was advised to bring another person on board as director and they suggested naming Ann as a director in the company, though she would not have to be involved in any day to day activities.
This began well, and Pat continued the work on Blake’s Hotel with a view to allowing the bank to sell once it was complete. However, in December 2010 Ann and Pat received a letter from Irish Nationwide stating that the funding was being withdrawn and the bank were calling in the debt immediately.
Pat’s company, Crossplan Investments, would be left saddled with debts of over €20 million.
Following the Irish Government bailout, Irish Nationwide became the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, or IBRC.
Crossplan Investments had spent some €25 million on the purchase and development of Blake's Hotel. However, IBRC in their wisdom sold this asset for a figure of €2.1 million in 2013.
In 2014, Elektron Holdings, which was the holding company for Aberdeen Lodge, had their debt purchased by Goldman Sachs through a shelf company Kenmare Property Finance Ltd.
From 2014 Goldman Sachs has been claiming that they can seize the assets of Elektron Holdings, which includes Aberdeen Lodge, the family home and livelihood. Ann and Pat dispute this guarantee and have been fighting a running battle with Goldman Sachs in the courts since 2014.
‘’Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure this isn’t all some awful nightmare. We’ve been dragged through the courts over the past few years and we’re under constant threat of eviction.
Every time I hear a knock on the door I’m worried that it’ll be another official from the banks serving more papers. It’s had a terrible impact on Pat’s health and he has been in and out of hospital over the past few years and is very, very ill. I have offered to pay them more than the full value of the loan of Aberdeen Lodge, just to have this nightmare over with, but they refused.”
However, Ann remains defiant and vows to continue her struggle to save her family home and business; “I just have to keep going. What Goldman Sachs are claiming is completely untrue and they are trying to force us out of our home and rob me of my livelihood. I have not given up hope, and I will do everything I can to protect my children, my home and my livelihood.”