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Sean Quinn, Once Ireland’s Richest Man, Applies for Bankruptcy

Sean Quinn, once ranked as Ireland’s richest man, applied for voluntary bankruptcy in Northern Ireland today, seven months after he lost control of the business group he founded in 1973.

“I have done absolutely everything in my power to avoid taking this drastic action,” Quinn said in an e-mailed statement. “I cannot now pay those loans that are due.”

Quinn, whose business interests spanned building materials to insurance, estimates he lost more than 1 billion euros ($1.36 billion) after investing in Anglo Irish Bank Corp, which was nationalized in 2009. Quinn and his family owe almost 2.9 billion euros, the bank said in a statement today.

The Quinns have taken legal proceedings against Anglo, now renamed the Irish Bank Resolution Corp., disputing the size of the debt. The bank meanwhile said today it is looking into whether the bankruptcy filing is in the right jurisdiction and vowed to pursue “maximum recovery” of the money owed.

“The bank is examining the validity of this application for bankruptcy in the light of Quinn’s residency and extensive business interests and liabilities within the state,” the bank said in a statement today, adding that Quinn lives in Cavan in the Republic of Ireland.

In 2008, Quinn and his family were estimated by Forbes magazine to be worth about $6 billion. At its peak, Quinn Group had 8,000 workers Europe-wide and the company was the biggest employer in the region where Ireland borders Northern Ireland.

Born in Derrylin, County Fermanagh, in Northern Ireland, Quinn started out by selling gravel and sand from his father’s farm near the border with the south, according to “The FitzPatrick Tapes: The Rise and Fall of One Man, One Bank and One Country,” by Tom Lyons and Brian Carey, a book on the collapse of Anglo Irish that details the links with Quinn.

Anglo Irish ousted Quinn from the company in April.

“Anglo’s actions in taking control of the businesses have led to the present situation,” Quinn said in today’s statement. “I find myself left with no other alternative.”

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