'Late Late' man quits smoking to help secure €3m debt deal

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 Mr McNamara (59) and his wife, barrister and former television presenter Theresa Lowe (56), were now saving €140 a week after both giving up cigarettes.

But a decision on whether the court will approve a personal insolvency arrangement, writing off €2.9m of the €3.7m in debts the couple owe, 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.

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Rudi Neuman, counsel for Tanager, raised concerns over €62,000 in rent he estimated Mr McNamara was paid in respect of an inheritance property in the years before he sought the personal insolvency 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 was told that at one point Mr McNamara had been earning €800-a-month in rent from the property and using this to discharge living expenses.

Mr Justice 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, on the face of things, 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. But the judge said he wanted the estate “to consider it carefully” and that he would prefer to adjourn the matter for a short period. Neither Mr McNamara nor Ms Lowe was in court for the hearing.

Unpaid music royalties, property investments during the housing bubble, and a failed bid by Mr McNamara to become a TD led to the couple’s financial difficulties.

Earlier, the court was told 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 was also told 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 is opposed to the proposal, which would write off more than €1.7m of what it is owed.

Last August, Mr Justice McDonald said he was minded to approve the personal insolvency arrangement, devised by personal insolvency practitioner James Green.

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

But Mr Justice McDonald 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 towards paying creditors.

It was clarified yesterday the sum is likely to be €250,000.

Mr Farry said Mr McNamara was pledging 100pc of what the property sold for and the accrued rent to creditors.

In total, the couple owe Tanager €2.26m, a debt secured on their family home in Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, which is valued at €550,000.

The couple also owe money to parties including Bank of Ireland, Banco de Sabadell SA, and Revenue, which are all unsecured debts.

Under the proposed arrangement, the couple would continue to pay a new written-down mortgage of €550,000 to Tanager.

A lump-sum payment of €100,000 would also be made along with a promise of €30,000 from a life insurance policy when it matures in seven years. Money will also be raised from the sale of land near their home.

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