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Court agrees to scrub €2.9m debts owed by Lowe and McNamara

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Frank McNamara and Theresa Lowe can keep their home

Frank McNamara and Theresa Lowe can keep their home

Frank McNamara and Theresa Lowe can keep their home

A court has approved a €2.9m debt write-off for ex-Late Late Show musical director Frank McNamara and his former television presenter wife Theresa Lowe, rejecting the objections of a vulture fund.

However, the personal insolvency arrangement will only be finally signed off by the High Court once it receives confirmation the estate of Mr McNamara's late father, who died in 2009, will be administered and assets realised "within a relatively short period".

Mr McNamara is due to inherit around €250,000 from the estate, and this money will go to his creditors.

In making the decision, Mr Justice Denis McDonald rejected objections from vulture fund Tanager, which is owed €2.26m and will only receive €100,000 under the arrangement.

Difficulties

As a result of the ruling, the celebrity couple will now be able to keep their family home near Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.

They got into financial difficulties in the early 2000s when Mr McNamara had problems collecting music royalties.

They remortgaged and sold properties to get through what they believed would be a short-term financial problem, but the recession in 2007 only compounded their difficulties and they ended up owing €3.7m.

Mr Justice McDonald had originally said last August he was "minded" to approve the arrangement, subject to clarification on certain issues.

But his approval was delayed repeatedly after Tanager raised matters relating to the non-disclosure of rental income and a potential tax liability.

In a 37-page written judgment, Mr Justice McDonald said any discrepancies had now been appropriately explained.

Some of the vulture fund's concerns revolved around €60,000 in rental income it estimated Mr McNamara received from property in his late father's estate before he got a protective certificate in October 2016.

This is a document which offers a debtor and their assets protection from legal proceedings by creditors while they are applying for a personal insolvency arrangement.

But Mr Justice McDonald said the evidence before the court was that it was used to discharge living expenses.

He noted Mr McNamara's affidavit evidence that most of it was spent making repayments to Tanager. "There is no evidence it was spent on luxuries," the judge said.

Tanager also raised issues over €28,000 in rent received by Mr McNamara in respect of his late father's property after the protective certificate was issued.

The judge said it was "unsatisfactory" that this income was not disclosed at the early stage of Mr McNamara's application.

He said that as Mr McNamara had disclosed it to his persona insolvency practitioner, the non-disclosure was primarily a matter for the practitioner.

However, Mr Justice McDonald concluded this initial non-disclosure should result in the arrangement application being dismissed.

He also said he could understand why it had not been included, as it was envisaged at the time the arrangement was put together that the property would be sold soon after.

Solicitors

The €28,800 sum was later paid to solicitors for the estate of Mr McNamara's late father so there would be no shortfall in the estate. Funds gifted by two family members were used to make the payment to the solicitors.

The judge said he did not believe he could treat the retention of the rent by Mr McNamara as a "misallocation of funds" on the part of the musician going to his bona fides or probity.

The judge said that in his view, this was a matter between Mr McNamara and his later father's estate and that the money had been, in substance, a prepayment of funds which will become payable to Mr McNamara in due course.