The Rise And Fall Of An Irish George Soros

November 30, 2011

Martin McCauley writes from Dublin: The Irish are dreamers and one of those who dreamed of becoming richer than George Soros has just bit the dust.

Sean Quinn, a name you may have never heard of, rose to dizzying heights during the years when you did not need to ask for a loan. The bank manager came to you and begged you to accept a few million. Interest rates were lower than inflation so you could not lose. At least that was the story. The quickest way to become a millionaire was to borrow money, buy a property, sell it on and reinvest the capital. All of Ireland was at this game. It was painless. You did not need any qualifications to succeed. No need to study six years at university to understand the mysteries of finance and capital. The level of university teaching in the early 2000s was not very high. Why not? The experts had quit so as to play the monopoly game of spot the property which will make you most money.

Sean began as a sound businessman. He had a quarry on his land and the building boom made him a lot of money. He diversified. He even set up his own insurance company. Those in the know said he was a fool. That was a sure way to lose money. Sean proved them wrong. He made insurance into a profitable business. The problem of success is that you begin to think you are God. You ignore what everyone says and plough on regardless. There is a good rule in business. Do the opposite of what the experts tell you. This is called O’Donnell’s law. The theory is that if the experts knew where to invest they would do it themselves and make a packet. Experts never become rich because they are afraid to back their hunches.

Then Sean committed a hara kiri, in a business sense that is. It occurred to him, as it had to many like him, that if he had his own bank, he would not need to borrow from anyone else. So he launched his bank and then it invested a fortune in the Anglo-Irish Bank. Unfortunately for him, the Anglo-Irish went pear shaped in the aftermath of the financial crash. His timing proved disastrous. Poor Sean went bust to the tune of over 4 billion euros. His own bank – it calls itself the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation – is now demanding he repays it 2.1 billion euros. The only way Sean can do this is to set up his own bank in the Cayman Islands and get it to provide the funds. After all, the European Central Bank just prints money when it runs short. So why should Sean not do the same? Call the new currency Cayman Island dollars and, and who knows, the Irish Bank may accept them. The world desperately needs a new source of dollars as the US variety is devaluing by the day.

Mr Soros became rich by taking the Bank of England for a few billion. George is still riding high in the crazy world of finance. Sean should put in a call to the Budapest sage. How do you get your hands on a few billion? After all, there are trillions sloshing around out there. He might even pretend to be Soros.