He was once Ireland’s richest man with an estimated wealth of $6 billion; now he is completely broke.

The rise and fall of businessman Sean Quinn, 64, is historic in its size.

He has gone from 164th richest man in the world, according to Forbes magazine, to bankruptcy.

Yesterday he made it official by declaring bankruptcy in a Belfast court with debts of almost $3.7 billion.

His financial collapse came after an incredible gamble on the shares of Anglo Irish Bank which went disastrously wrong.

Just as the Irish property boom was collapsing, Quinn began secretly buying up the bank shares thinking he was buying into a blue chip banking stock.


Sean Quinn says empire will go on

Sean Quinn, once Ireland’s richest man, loses everything

He was convinced the bank would continue to prosper as it had had led the way to the Celtic Tiger economy by setting up thousands of businessmen, especially in the property field.

Instead he was buying into a bank that was running out of cash faster than a Ponzi scheme as the property market collapsed.

To make matters worse, Quinn insisted on borrowing more and more from the bank to finance more shares even as the bank began to collapse all around him.

The reason for the bankruptcy yesterday was the outstanding $3.7 billion in loans he still owes Anglo as the bank is now pursuing him for it.

He had started with a $200 loan from his father to start a small quarrying company near the Irish border. He had left school at 14 to pursue his business dream.

His quarrying operation turned into a massive business. He then founded what became Ireland’s most profitable insurance business Quinn Direct and seemed on top of the world.

But yesterday it all came apart as he filed for bankruptcy in his native Northern irelnd rather than in the Irish republic where it takes far longer to re-emerge.

In a statement, he said: "It is with great sadness and regret that I have applied for voluntary bankruptcy in the High Court in Belfast today."

"I have done absolutely everything in my power to avoid taking this drastic decision.

"The vast majority of debt that Anglo maintains is owed is strenuously disputed. I cannot, however, now pay those loans which are due."

He added: "Following Anglo taking control of the Quinn Group of companies, which I and a loyal team spent a lifetime building, I find myself left with no alternative."

Mr Quinn fell into financial trouble by purchasing bank shares which then became worthless.

"I am certainly not without blame. I am not in the business of pointing fingers or making excuses," he said.

"However, recent history has shown that I, like thousands of others in Ireland, incorrectly relied upon the persons who guided Anglo and who wrongfully sought to portray a 'blue chip' Irish banking stock."