HE SPENDS a lot of his time lobbying and lecturing heads of state on the laudable subject of Third World debt.
But U2 star Bono is also doing a thing or two about sizeable debts of another kind – namely, those much closer to home and amassed over the years by a string of his own companies.
Latest accounts filed by the campaigning singer and his fellow band members reveal the band has written off more than E10m of at least E24m owed to them by their own companies.
They have also decided to shut down five of their companies registered in Ireland.
Rock accounts expert Cliff Dane said last night: ‘Following on from the band’s shrewd decision to move some of its accounts abroad, it looks like they are currently going through something of a corporate spring clean.
‘It’s still very difficult to see what exactly they are up to but it would appear that their drive for greater financial efficiency continues unabated.’ Last year, the band revealed it was moving some of its vast financial operations to Amsterdam after the Government decided to reform previously favourable tax laws relating to artists.
The move sparked accusations of hypocrisy against the multimillionaire singer, in particular, for encouraging people paying a considerably higher proportion of tax on their income than he does, to give money to charitable causes he espouses.
These include the Global Fund To Fight Aids in Africa, which is funded from income raised each time products from a host of big brands like Gap, Apple and Motorola are purchased using the campaign’s Red American Express Card.
The initiative, which Bono launched just over six months ago, was recently accused of spending more money advertising itself than it had raised for charity in the six months since its launch.
U2’s move to axe some of its companies was made a few weeks ago and lodged with the Companies Registration Office in Dublin.
The list includes Thengel Ltd, which all the members of the band – and manager Paul Mc-Guinness – have been directors of since 1980. The other companies run by the band are Remond, Straypass and the Fair City Trust.
Remond Ltd, a subsidiary of U2’s holding company, Not Us Ltd, last September showed a balance in December 31, 2005, of just E3 after a debt of E10,499,440 from the previous period was written off.
This debt appears to be partially made up of E4.2m owed to Not Us Ltd, E3.6m to Target Tours Inc – which is a whollyowned subsidiary of Not Us Ltd – and E1.3m owed to another Not Us Ltd subsidiary, U2 Ltd.
In addition, E1.1m owed to Remond Ltd by a firm called U2 Partnership and a further E3.1m owed by another Not Us subsidiary called Eventcorp were written off.
Eventcorp’s E293,917 debt to Not Us Ltd subsidiary Sam Tours Inc was written off, as was almost all of the firm’s E296,060 debt to the U2 Partnership.
It was decided that just E731 was ‘recoverable’.
A E2.2m debt Not Us Ltd owed another U2 firm has also been written off.
As far as the bulk of the money owed was concerned, the accounts for Remond state that ‘the directors decided it was not recoverable’ and ‘therefore written off’.
However, one debt that hasn’t been reduced is the E14.3m owed to Lakehaven, a firm run by Bono and the Edge. As well as lending E17,901 to a Swiss subsidiary called Adloff SA, the Dublin firm loaned another one of its subsidiaries – France-based SCI Nouvelle Immobiliere des Plages – an additional E2.3m in the year to December 31, 2005, on top of the E11.9m it loaned it in 2004.
Ravencrest Ltd – whose directors are Bono, his wife, Ali, and the Edge – also appears to be quite cash rich and shows assets of E1.5m for the year ending March 31, 2006, as opposed to debts of E280,291 the previous year.
Another firm – Parlade Investments, which is run by bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen – is also up for the chop.
Indeed, the various interests by the individual band members are increasingly becoming more segregated. While Irish companies they share directorships of are being closed down, more companies are being set up around individual members.
Bono, for example, recently launched two new firms – Paulisper and PDH Communications. His fellow directors are his wife in one firm and pal Peter Lacy in another.
But nobody is accusing the band of being short of a few euros.
All four members live in a string of lavish homes scattered around the globe – just some of the trappings of the wealth generated by their phenomenal success.
Indeed, U2 was estimated in 2006 to be the world’s most profitable rock band with earnings of more than E160 million.
Mr Dane added: ‘The members of this band are each very, very wealthy in their own right.’ The band are believed to be worth around E600m but property deals could swell this figure to more than E1bn in under 10 years.