Archive for September 5th, 2010

Anglo avoiding awkward questions

In the Godfather movie when Don Corleone is gunned down the surviving family goes into lockdown mode back in its compound, and for increased protection put a car across the entrance and a chain for good measure. Apparently former Anglo CEO was watching because according to the Cape Cod Times, David Drumm has erected a wall and placed a chain with a big “no trespassing” sign on it across the driveway of his USD $4.6m waterfront property on Stage Neck Road in Chatham, Massachussetts – remember that’s the one where Charlie Bird door-stepped him with the immortal lines “what are you doing ducking down there?” with David seemingly lurking behind a sofa. So we’d guess David is not going to be forthcoming in the future though he has a case scheduled for hearing in the courts here in October where Anglo are seeking the repayment of loans and David is countersuing under a number of headlings.

The present Anglo management however isn’t very forthcoming either. The Independent last week took a strong line in criticising the company for not granting interviews and it seems that Anglo excludes what it perceives as hostile journalists from its press conferences.

Which left the Sunday Tribune’s Neil Callanan with a veritable cornucopia of access to the CEO Mike Aynsley and Chief Financial Officer Maarten Van Eden. I was going to say cornucopia of information but despite having ten articles on the bank in today’s edition, there was precious little new information forthcoming on two specific questions

(1) Why are Anglo’s provision for losses on its non-NAMA loanbook so low and if these non-NAMA loans are provisioned at the same level as the NAMA loans won’t Anglo need a bailout over €30bn.

(2) These loans which are being sold in the US – who is buying them and why is NAMA not taking them over.

There also seems to be disquiet about Anglo’s exposure to derivatives. Instead there was plenty of Seanie bashing – never ever going to get a Christmas card from Mike Aynsley apparently, and venting of frustration, the un-Australian word “frigging” crops up a number of times (though his use of the term put me in mind of a young priest that visited us at secondary school on a recruitment drive for future novices and impressed us by telling us that a neighbouring schools’ hurling team were a “bunch of fecking bastards”) and there is the usual promotion of Anglo’s preferred restructuring option of a good bank/bad bank.

Of course it has to be acknowledged that the CEO and CFO are relatively recent appointments and they are dealing with a dreadful legacy in which they had no input before autumn last year. That said, the abysmal first restructuring plan presented to the EU in November 2009 which was flatly rejected and roundly criticised for its lack of credibility was prepared under Mike Aynsley’s auspices. And the constantly growing bailout requirements have continued to grow under his leadership – remember the Irish Times in March 2010 “however, he [Mike Aynsley] said detailed financial examination by the bank and its advisers had shown it would cost between €6 billion and €9 billion – in addition to the €4 billion already invested in the bank – to restructure the lender and run the bank as a going concern.”!  And despite the disastrous legacy that shouldn’t prevent journalists asking tough questions about present activity and future plans.

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It was in spring this year when NAMA is reported to have given permission to Top 10 NAMA-bound developer, Gerry Gannon, to sell his stake in the K Club. No news yet about any sale. This entry takes a look at the K Club from its stately origins through its halcyon days in 2006 when it hosted the Ryder Cup to its present state with a glut of homes for sale or rent.

The K Club (or Kildare Hotel and Golf Club) is facing difficult times today. Some five months after NAMA reportedly agreed that 49%-shareholder, Gerry Gannon, could dispose of his share, the company owning and operating the complex, Bishopscourt Investments, having racked up losses of €8m in their last published accounts for 2008 (following losses of €5.5m in 2007), is reported to be seeking to defer the repayment of €55m of debt.  Although the company still has shareholder funds, there is some concern on the part of the auditors as to the value of some property. There are reports that some of the 200 homes in the complex have lost up to 70% of their value and there have been rumblings about management charges and membership fees. A “fractional ownership” company has been brought in to effectively flog high-end timeshares in property on the complex. Indeed one of the few sparks of good news in recent times for the K Club is news that Treasury Holdings have been denied planning permission to create a 377-acre Wicklow version of the K Club on the estate of former President Sean T O’Ceallaigh though only two days ago the Independent reported that Treasury was still considering its position with respect to a hotel and golf complex on a 427-acre site at Milverton Demesne in Skerries. For the K Club it was all so different a decade ago.


What is now the 5-star K Club hotel had its beginnings as a house in the pre-Famine 1830s built by Hugh Barton (of Barton and Guestier wines fame). The house and surrounding estate went through various owners upto 1988 when it was acquired by the Jefferson Smurfit group who converted it to a hotel and golf resort in 1991.  Michael Smurfit and Gerry Gannon became the owners in 2005 on a 51%:49% basis buying the complex for a reported €115m and spending a reported €50m upgrading it to the five-red-star venue that it is today. Alongside two championship golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer 200 homes approximately were built in the 550-acre grounds ranging from apartments to “ranch-style” detached houses. Management charges appear to be from €10,000 up. Add to that €8,000 a year for golf membership (special offer for couples – €12,000). Back in 2006 houses were changing hands at €3m+.There were eventually five separate property developments on the site

(a) Ryder Cup Village comprising 80 apartments at up to €1.4m each (2006 prices)

(b) Churchfields

(c) Fountain Courtyard

(d) 18 luxury homes around the Palmer Course, valued at between €4m and €8m each (2006 prices)

(e) Ladycastle development around the Smurfit Course, comprising 40 houses (up to €3m each in 2006) and 36 apartments (€1m each in 2006)

Halcyon Days

For non-golfers it might be hard to understand the brouhaha but for only the second time since the tournament came into being in the 1920s the K Club succeeded in tempting the Ryder Cup in Europe away from the UK. This was an incredible achievement and came on the back of the K Club having two world class golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer. For three days in September 2006., the K Club briefly became the busiest heliport in the world with up to 120 helicopters operating 700 flights per day from 5 helipads located in the complex. Owners of properties in the complex were said to be able to command €50,000 rents for the duration of the tournament. At this time the great and the good in Irish society were buying their own share of the K Club lifestyle but you will have to meet with the approval of existing residents and the membership of the K Club before being allowed to buy. Reported owners included

Sporting world

John Magnier, Vincent O’Brien, Dermot Weld, Clem Murphy, Pat Keogh, Michael Ryan, Robert Sinclair, Ellis Short, DJ Carey


Sean Dunne, Sean Mulryan, Paddy Kelly, Joseph Kelly, John P Kennedy, Seamus Ross, Gerry Gannon, Martin Flattery, Noel Smyth, Tommy Gallagher, Liam Mulryan, Sean Mulryan, Paddy McKillen, Ronnie Delaney, Liam Cunningham, Arthur French


Finn O’Sullivan, Gerard Tyrrell, Michael Smurfit, Dermot Desmond, Ben Dunne, Tom Coughlan, Moira McGann, Johnny Fortune, Aidan Brady, Stephen Fitzgerald, Michael and Pamela Furlong, Martin Doherty, Charles and Phyllis Kelly, Paddy Wright


David Coyle, Frank Ward


Charlie McCreevy is said to have received a “fast-tracked” 107% loan-to-value €1.6m loan from Michael Fingleton’s Irish Nationwide Building Society to fund his purchase. Bill Clinton was rumoured to be a buyer but that turned out not to be the case.


In 2009 it was reported that the K Club has teamed up with “fractional co-ownership specialist” , Firstlight, to sell timeshares in the K Club. The Irish Times reported that “[one eighth] shared ownership of a holiday home in the Ladycastle part of the K Club will cost from €125,000 to €310,000, depending on whether it is a two-bed apartment, a two- or three-bed duplex unit or a three- or four-bedroom house. Owners will be entitled to six weeks use per year with two of them available at short notice. Alternatively, they can be offered for international exchange, with the weeks being valued and the value in points used by the owner to reserve an exchange week in one of 40 international destinations” That was back in September 2009 – by May 2010 none of the “fractional ownership” shares had been sold though there had been apparently some interest.  Prices in May 2010 were quoted at: “a one-eighth share of a two-bed duplex at the K Club costs €150,000 and €225,000 in a larger three-bed. Fractional ownership of a large four-bed house costs €290,000.”

Today, a quick perusal of Ireland’s biggest property sales website, DAFT.ie, shows that there are 11 properties for sale and rent.ie show 22 properties for rent (there will be some cross over between the two categories). There are other web-based channels for sale and rent and of course there may be some properties “quietly” on the market. Some of the rental properties state that rent allowance is not accepted, others don’t. Most of the rental properties are furnished. It seems that you can rent a furnished 800 sq ft apartment for €800 per month. With opulent surroundings, the 5-star K Club hotel on your doorstep, well-maintained grounds, 24 hour security and only 20 minutes from Dublin, is the millionaire lifestyle practically within all our grasps today? As regards sales, asking prices are down to well below €500 psf as the present list of properties on DAFT.ie shows.

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