Saturday 1 October 2016

Meet the new 'Sheikh of D4': Profile of Joe O'Reilly

O'Reilly teams up with Middle East investors to buy Ballsbridge site

Published 23/07/2015 | 02:30

Developer Joe O’Reilly
Developer Joe O’Reilly
Sean Dunne

The man behind Dundrum Town Centre has teamed up with a Middle East investment group in a bid to buy the former Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels in Dublin.

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Joe O'Reilly's Chartered Land is believed to have been named as the preferred bidder for the seven-acre site for the two hotels, which sits on some of the most valuable land in the country.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) is understood to be backing Chartered Land in a €155m bid for the property. Even at €155m, the sale price would be a fraction of the €380m paid by bust developer Sean Dunne for the property in 2005.

Mr Dunne had hoped to build a 38-storey tower on the site when he bought the block, but his plans never got off the ground. Ulster Bank ultimately took over the site and is the seller now.

The sale process is yet to be completed, but Mr O'Reilly's bid is expected to be successful.

Mr O'Reilly and his businesses are one of Nama's biggest debtors. However, as this deal is being fully funded by ADIA and the property is not related to Nama, it is unlikely the State's bad bank would object.

Under the plan, ADIA will finance the purchase, and Chartered Land will manage the site.

Unlike the sale of other hotels in recent months, such as the Westin in central Dublin and the InterContinental Hotel in Ballsbridge, the two hotels would be attractive for their redevelopment value as much as a going concern.

There is existing planning permission for more than 550 apartments across 11 blocks and a 150-bedroom hotel. That planning will expire in 2021.

Chartered Land is selling assets at present as it repays its Nama debts. It sold its 4 and 5 Grand Canal Square office blocks earlier this year for €232m.

Chartered Land is perhaps best known for its Dumdum Town Centre. The loans tied to it and other shopping centres are expected to fetch more than €1.4bn when sold later this year.

ADIA is one of the biggest, and most secretive, sovereign wealth funds in the world. It was set up 30 years ago to invest the State's huge profits from oil and gas. Today it is estimated to control assets worth $800bn.

This is not the only major deal in Ballsbridge this year. A 3.7 acre site at AIB's HQ in the area is expected to sell for about €50m.

Mr O'Reilly is one of the most 'under the radar' developers in the country.

Known as 'Mr Shopping Centre" in the industry, he started out as a foreman with Manor Park Homes before setting up Castlethorn Construction with two others.

That business built thousands of houses and made him a fortune. However, the huge money came when he struck out on his own with a venture that became Chartered Land.

It was one of the biggest players in the shopping centre sector during the boom years.

Most notably, it was behind the construction of Dundrum Town Centre - now valued at more than €1bn - but Mr O'Reilly has also been involved in the Pavilions in Swords, north Co Dublin, as well as the Ilac Centre in Dublin.

He forked out nearly €600m for the Pavilions in the summer of 2006, but immediately sold off part of it and concentrated on a section that was earmarked for more development.

Mr O'Reilly was also heavily involved in the Dublin docklands - Facebook is now based at two of his showcase office blocks at 4 and 5 Grand Canal Square - as well as the Bord Gáis Theatre.

However, when the crash came, things quickly turned sour. At its peak, Mr O'Reilly and his related companies owed a reputed €2.8bn to Nama, although that has since reduced.

He was one of the so-called 'Maple 10' of Anglo Irish Bank borrowers who agreed to buy shares in the bank that were being sold by Seán Quinn in 2008.

Last year, he hired Andrew Gunne as chief executive of Chartered Land with a remit to explore investment from overseas. With this deal, it seems that strategy has already paid dividends.

Irish Independent

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