The Belfast Telegraph – sister paper of the Irish Independent in Northern Ireland – this morning reported what it claimed was an exclusive. The report never made it online but it began “Northern Ireland’s best known pub group is facing a winding-up order over unpaid rent on its former headquarters, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal”. The report by the Bel Tel’s Margaret Canning went on to claim that Botanic Inns which operates 14 pubs in Northern Ireland and employs 600 people, was facing a winding up petition from property developers John and Helen Miskelly.
We learned this week that the Sunday Times Rich List Irish Top 250 estimated John Miskelly’s wealth at €71m and attributed the wealth, in part, to ownership of the Ten Square Hotel in Belfast. We also know that John is in NAMA, with the BBC reporting in July 2012 that NAMA had registered a charge on one of John’s companies, Applecroft Investments.
Botanic Inns has to contend with not one, but two NAMA developers. In 2011, NAMA had administrators appointed to Clare developers, Sean Lyne and Noel Connellan, who owned a string of pubs in Northern Ireland. Five of the pubs were rented to Botanic Inns, so in 2011, NAMA became landlord to the pub landlords!
Separately, Botanic Inns rented its head office on Ormeau Road from John and Helen Miskelly. And the Bel Tel today claimed that GBP 60,000 (€71,100) was owed by Botanic Inns to the Miskellys on the Ormeau Road building, and that the petition which is set to be heard by the High Court in Belfast next month jeopardized the future of the pub operator.
This afternoon, the Northern Ireland pub industry group, Pubs of Ulster issued a statement in which Colin Neil, its chief executive said [UPDATED] “We are disappointed to see the media coverage about the position the Botanic Inns group has been placed in by the landlord of one of their administrative buildings. The move by the landlord of the Botanic Inns group headquarter building will not impact on the day to day trading at bars and pubs owned by the group. We are working closely with the management at the Botanic Inns group and as one of our most high profile members are confident that they continue to provide a quality offering. They have our full support.”
So, it seems that Botanic Inns is facing a petition in respect of its headquarters but the petition is not connected to the bars operated by the group.