Wednesday 22 January 2020

Music supremo Frank McNamara plays piano at funerals to cut debts

Frank McNamara and Theresa Lowe
Frank McNamara and Theresa Lowe

Heavily indebted former Late Late Show musical director Frank McNamara has given up cigarettes to save money and is now playing piano at funerals to boost his income, the High Court has heard.

However, a decision on whether the court will approve a personal insolvency arrangement, writing off €2.9m of the €3.7m in debts owed by him and his wife, former television presenter Theresa Lowe (56), has been deferred until at least next week.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald had been expected to rule on the matter yesterday, but he adjourned proceedings after an American vulture fund raised concerns about rental income received by Mr McNamara.


Rudi Neuman, counsel for Tanager, raised concerns over €62,000 in rent he estimated Mr McNamara (59) was paid in respect of an inheritance property in the years before he sought the arrangement.

The barrister argued the funds should have been paid into the estate of Mr McNamara's late father, as the musician has been doing since seeking to avail of personal insolvency legislation in 2016.

The court heard that at one point Mr McNamara had been earning €800 a month in rent from the property and using this for living expenses.

Judge McDonald said he would need to get a letter from solicitors for the executors of the estate confirming Mr McNamara would not be pursued for the funds.

The judge said a letter confirming there was no potential claim was necessary as without it, it did not appear the proposed arrangement would return Mr McNamara to solvency.

The couple's barrister, Keith Farry, said a letter could be sought and put before the court yesterday afternoon. However, the judge said he wanted the estate "to consider it carefully" and he would prefer to adjourn the matter for a short period.

Neither Mr McNamara nor Ms Lowe was in court.

Unpaid music royalties, property investments during the housing bubble and a failed bid by Mr McNamara to become a TD led to their financial issues.

Earlier, the court heard of efforts made by Mr McNamara, an internationally known musician, composer and arranger, to save money and boost earnings.

In an affidavit, Mr McNamara said he had supplemented his income by entering an arrangement to work for funeral service providers.

"I am now playing the piano at funerals and in recent times I am playing at least one funeral a week," he said.

The court also heard of steps the couple had taken to reduce monthly expenditure. A document filed by Mr McNamara stated: "We have already cut everything to the bone."

He said the couple were not making contributions to pensions. "Both Theresa and I gave up smoking which is saving us €140 a week," he added.


Mr Farry has argued creditors would fare better under the personal insolvency arrangement than if the couple were made bankrupt. However, their main creditor Tanager opposed to the proposal, which would see more than €1.7m it is owed being written off.

Last August, Judge McDonald said he was minded to approve the personal insolvency arrangement.

The judge noted that if the couple were to become bankrupt, Tanager would realise 22c in the euro, whereas under the proposed arrangement it would receive 27c in the euro.

However, the judge deferred a decision at that point so clarity could be sought around the sum Mr McNamara was due to receive from the sale of the inheritance property, which is to be put toward paying creditors. It was clarified yesterday the sum is likely to be €250,000.

Mr McNamara has pledged 100pc of this to creditors.

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