Northern Ireland

Stephen Nolan had outstanding loans from company totalling close to £900,000

BBC presenter Stephen Nolan
BBC presenter Stephen Nolan BBC presenter Stephen Nolan

Stephen Nolan had outstanding loans owed to his production company of close to £900,000 at the end of March last year, including half a million pounds taken out over the course of a single year.

Third Street Studios reported £2.4m in money owed at the end of an extended 15-month reporting period, including £890,000 in loans made to Mr Nolan. A company has to pay corporation tax on the loans if not repaid within a certain period of time.

Mr Nolan remains at the helm of the company but the shares were transferred in late 2022 to an entity entirely controlled by bookmaker Paul McLean, managing director of McLean's Bookmakers. The company, Tsseot, is the trustee of a newly formed employee ownership trust (EOT).

A McLean Bookmakers
A McLean Bookmakers A McLean Bookmakers

The radio and television presenter, on a salary of approximately £400,000 a year from the BBC, the fifth highest at the broadcaster, did not respond to a request for comment on the outstanding loans, some of which date back seven years.

At nearly £4m, funds amassed by Third Street Studios, now with an office address in the same building as its accountant, are greater by millions than any other similar high profile production companies in Northern Ireland. The funds include the money owed to the company by Mr Nolan.

The broadcaster took out loans of £136,000 in the 15 month period from the end of 2020 and £589,000 in the 12 month period to the end of 2018. Other loans were taken out in earlier years. He repaid approximately £54,000 over the seven years from 2015.

Directors are allowed to take loans out of their companies but there are tax liabilities if it is more than £10,000 and not repaid within a certain period of time after the end of a financial year. 

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Any unpaid balance after nine months and one day of the company's year-end attracts a 32.5 per cent corporation tax charge. The company is liable, not the directors, though they have to declare the loans on self-assessment forms. The tax can be claimed back when a loan is fully repaid, but not the interest.

Mr Nolan did not reply when asked about the loans or whether there was any connection between the outstanding amount and the restructuring of the company into an employee trust overseen by the entity controlled by Mr McLean.

Bookmaker Paul McLean
Bookmaker Paul McLean Bookmaker Paul McLean

The Nolan Show, with Holly Hamilton presenting, last week broadcast a segment on betting companies and sport, including the Irish League, but did not mention any link between Mr Nolan's company and Mr McLean. Glentoran's ground is named the BetMcLean Oval.

On its website, Third Street lists nine productions, all of them commissioned by the BBC. Others, including programmes on Hydebank Young Offenders' Centre, are not listed on the site but were also commissioned by the BBC.

The BBC also confirmed on Friday Third Street Studios is co-producer of Nolan Live, the television show. The broadcaster previously told the Irish News that Mr Nolan's salary is for work "on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle and Nolan Live", the last a show his company co-produces.

Mr Nolan did not respond when asked whether his company has any income from sources other than the BBC or intellectual property money derived from shows commissioned by the broadcaster.

Third Street, on its website, until last week listed as its office address the 2nd Floor of Ascot House in Shaftesbury Square. The name on the intercom for the 2nd floor of the building is that of a commercial property letting company.

Ascot House in Belfast, until last week the listed address on the Third Street Studios website
Ascot House in Belfast, until last week the listed address on the Third Street Studios website Ascot House in Belfast, until last week the listed address on the Third Street Studios website

The address on the website was changed last week to the same as the company accountant following the publication by the Irish News of its initial story on Mr Nolan's production company on July 8. 

Mr Nolan did not respond when asked whether the production company has an office.

The broadcaster, in an initial statement responding to the restructuring of the company putting Mr McLean in control of its shares, said he was "delighted that one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland will be advising the staff about all the business elements of running a company".

"The aim is to grow Third St so that it can create formats, IP (intellectual property) and shows that will be successful locally, nationally and internationally - and hopefully that will mean more job  creation as well,” Mr Nolan said.

"Now that employee ownership is in play - I want creators to know that they can have a real stake in the business if they work for Third St " .

Third Street's annual report said there was an average of three employees over the 15 months to the end of March 2022. 

Mr Nolan is due to return to presenting The Nolan Show on Radio Ulster on July 24 following a holiday in the United States.

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