Fail better

Bill Cullen Car Dealership

Bill Cullen and his partner Jackie Lavin appeared on the Marion Finucane show over the weekend.

They spoke frankly about the collapse of the business empire that Bill had built from nothing over a period of 50 years.

Their predicament mirrors that of many individuals or small business owners in this country whose problem is they aren’t too big to fail.

The saying goes if you owe the bank €10,000, the bank owns you but if you owe the bank €10 billion, you own the bank.

Bill’s problem was he “only” owed €10 million. A relatively small sum when compared to the monstrous amounts owed by most of the developers now gainfully employed by NAMA.

Unlike many who chose to flee the country and undergo bankruptcy proceedings abroad, or those who transferred all their assets to their spouses, or who co-operated with NAMA in return for generous salaries and bonuses, Bill chose to stay and try to weather the storm.

He had never missed a repayment and he had a plan to get the business back on track, but as he says the bank pulled the plug opportunistically and moved to seize all his assets while they were depressed.

It’s just another instance of the banks’ bullying tactics. They were recapitalised with the intention that they would continue to support Irish businesses, the lifeblood of the economy; however they seem to be putting small indigenous companies out of business while welcoming foreign investors with open arms.

Rather than languish in bitterness, true to form, at the ripe old age of 72, Bill Cullen is going to start all over again and rebuild from the rubble of his business empire. With the assistance of friends and family he has leased a small dealership and will be out on the forecourt selling cars. His positive attitude is truly an inspiration.

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