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Archive for January 21st, 2012

The Dunner does a runner. Sean Dunne pictured with wife Gayle are off to America leaving a trail of financial destruction in the rear-view mirror as NAMA and non-NAMA banks take control of his former assets.

In a surprising move – “surprising” in light of recent upbeat optimism – a consortium of banks which had provided the funding to Sean Dunne for his “Knightsbridge in Dublin 4” development dream, have pulled the plug and appointed the Dalata Hotel Group to manage Sean Dunne’s hotels in Ballsbridge. The hotels and some apartments, sit on a 7-acre site assembled by Sean in the early 2000s – detailed here – with the aim of developing upmarket apartment, retail and office space. Permission was finally granted for a scheme last September 2011, but with the property market on the floor, Sean had then projected that any development would be at least five years away.

As exclusively reported on here, NAMA is pursuing Sean though Dublin’s High Court, seeking orders on personal guarantees which Sean last week disclosed amounted to €184m in NAMA’s case. Last week Sean added that he would not contest NAMA’s action as long as his accountant verified the claim. The case, reference 2011/5119S seems not to have progressed in the past fortnight and there is still no legal representation for Sean recorded at the Courts Service. In addition to €184m in personal guarantees reportedly owing to NAMA, Sean has conceded that a further €225m is owing in personal guarantees to non-NAMA banks.

The past year has seen a sharp public turnaround in Sean Dunne’s fortunes in Ireland. In the earlier part of the year, the word on the street was that Sean Mulryan and Sean Dunne were two of NAMA’s most favoured developers. In March 2011, the Irish Sunday Times (not available online without a subscription) reported that NAMA was sending in receivers to Sean Dunne’s companies. Sean’s spokesman subsequently denied the story. But in July 2011, NAMA did in fact appoint property receivers to several of Sean’s properties. Separately, in a nasty little legal dispute with a former cleaner, Sean was seen to have scored a Pyrrhic victory in winning the case but being awarded a modest sum – the court case and judgment are detailed here “Baron Hardup, Widow Twankey and a feather duster : the Sean Dunne/Gina Farrell pantomime (with Buttons played by NAMA)”. In October 2011, severe flooding across Dublin resulted in damage to Sean’s hotels in Ballsbridge which have just now been repaired at a reported cost of €4m. Just before Christmas, he told reporters that he and his family were emigrating toAmerica, where they have been living for more than a year. And then NAMA sued him.

Life in America has already seen its share of drama – detailed here – for the Dunnes from renting an opulent mansion in Connecticut, upsetting the neighbours in Belle Haven when Sean sought to redevelop a residential property and then there was wife Gayle’s lawsuit against their American lawyer for the return of USD 500,000. Word is that the Dunnes continue to explore property investment and development opportunities in the US, but there has been no word of any specific deal of late.

So farewell then Sean and Gayle. But for all the self-satisfaction that will be felt in some parts of Ireland, remember this was once a very successful developer, who correctly identified a need for upmarket apartments in central Dublin– try finding a 2,000 sq ft apartment in the city centre and you’ll soon see the gap in the market. The dream of Knightsbridge inDublin4 had flashes of flair and chutzpah oftentimes missing in Ireland. And at age 57, Sean still has a good few years left in him, older and wiser after what has turned out to be a disastrous property gamble in Dublin 4 on which he lost a substantial amount of his own equity. The man himself isn’t reserved in telling you how much employment and income he has created in his lifetime here. In some ways, it’s a lesser place with his absence, despite the trail of financial destruction which the once golden couple has left behind.

(Graphic above produced by Japlandic.com, contact here)

UPDATE: 8th March, 2012. Almost as a footnote to the above, it is reported by the eagle-eyed Mary Carolan in the Irish Times today that Sean Dunne’s legal representative has indicated to the court that Sean is to consent to the judgment orders in favour of NAMA which apparently total €184.2m; I say “eagle-eyed” because the matter was referred to yesterday at the High Court despite not being listed. The matter is set to be formalised next Monday, and that is that, though it will be interesting to see how NAMA proceed from here. Will it seek to make Sean Dunne bankrupt or go after assets that might be held by Sean’s wife?

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It’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks for controversial developer Thomas McFeely. On Friday 13th January, he was declared bankrupt in the UK; on 16th  January, a bankruptcy hearing in Dublin against the developer was adjourned to April; on 19th January, the residents of Priory Hall who were forcibly evacuated from a Thomas McFeely-built development in October 2011 were given a temporary reprieve on their ongoing alternative accommodation costs which Dublin City Council is seeking to disown, when the Supreme Court adjourned a hearing until February. Next week, Thomas faces jail in a Dublin court. And yesterday, the BBC reported that administrators in Northern Ireland had been appointed to a Thomas McFeely-linked company, Inis Developments. NAMA is behind that appointment.  The BBC reported yesterday “A note in the accounts said the firm was continuing to develop a site at Stratford in east London. However this development is understood to have been repossessed by the Irish government’s National Assets Management Agency (NAMA) in November” NAMA has declined to comment on the fact that Thomas McFeely gave his address in his UK bankruptcy as “Flat 44, Athena Court, 186 High Street, LONDON, United Kingdom, E15 2FD”. The Irish Independent reported at the start of November 2011 that NAMA had appointed receivers toAthena Court which is on High Street,Stratford, east London. A NAMA spokesman declined to comment on the McFeely UK bankruptcy but it is the Agency’s position that in any situation involving a debtor NAMA will review all its legal options to help maximise the amount of money recovered for the taxpayer.

There is no apparent mention of Thomas McFeely’s home on Ailesbury Road in Dublin in the UK bankruptcy application, in the sense that it is not shown as an address on the Insolvency Service records. In the recent UK bankruptcy case of the Grehan brothers, alternative Irish addresses were shown for the two developers. Although NAMA has not acquired loans in respect of Priory Hall, thereby avoiding that hot potato, yesterday’s news of appointment of administrators confirms that NAMA is a Thomas McFeely creditor. Will the Agency seek to annul the London bankruptcy of Thomas McFeely in the same way that Anglo had Sean Quinn’s bankruptcy annulled in Northern Ireland? Who can say, the Agency is not commenting.

Separately, and although it is not yet showing on the official state publication, Iris Oifigiuil, it is being reported in the Irish Independent today that NAMA has appointed property receivers, HWBC Allsop, to assets owned by Michael Whelan’s Moritz Group. Although it is reported that a number of assets are not subject to NAMA’s receivers, the only asset mentioned in the report is the Galway Gateway Shopping Centre. This comes one day after it was reported that Ulster Bank had appointed property receivers Grant Thornton to “hundreds of homes” owned by Maplewood Developments, a key company in the Moritz Group.

Remember you can see a comprehensive list of Irish foreclosure actions by NAMA here and in this regularly updated spreadsheet.

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