Friday 24 March 2017

Grehan tells of shock as NAMA calls in receivers

Developer whose company owes €650m 'baffled' by move after signing memorandum of understanding with toxic loan agency

NAMA has placed Ray Grehan's property interests into receivership. He is pictured here at the Grange residential and commercial development, Blackrock, Co Dublin
NAMA has placed Ray Grehan's property interests into receivership. He is pictured here at the Grange residential and commercial development, Blackrock, Co Dublin

Emmet Oliver and Donal O'Donovan

Ray Grehan, the man who bought the most expensive site in Ireland during the boom, expressed surprise and bafflement last night that NAMA had placed his property empire into receivership.

Mr Grehan, whose company has about €650m in debts, said he had signed a memorandum of understanding with NAMA in December, but yesterday the agency still moved to place his Irish and UK assets in receivership.

For its part, NAMA said such an agreement did not mean that borrowers were exempt from enforcement action.

This is the first time NAMA has taken action against a developer with such an agreement -- a move which is likely to leave some developers deeply concerned.

"What it means is that nobody is necessarily over the line yet,'' said one property source last night.

Mr Grehan was a top 20 developer and tried at the tail end of the property boom to boost the market by providing interest-free loans to buyers.

Mr Grehan hit the headlines in 2005 when he paid €171.5m for the two-acre former UCD veterinary college site.

This worked out at €85.75m an acre, the most paid by any developer for land in the city. The site is now operated as a car park and is valued at about €40m.

Among the assets NAMA is seizing is the Grange apartment complex in Stillorgan; the former UCD site in Dublin 4; the Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth; and a residential project near Liffey Valley, called St Edmunds.

Grant Thornton have been appointed as receivers in Ireland and are likely to be appointed as administrators in the UK, pending the outcome of a court hearing.

The Irish receivership will be handled by highly regarded insolvency experts Michael McAteer and Paul McCann, both of whom are currently involved in the administration of Quinn Insurance.

AIB was the bank that backed the project, though Mr Grehan has also taken loans from Bank of Ireland over the years.

Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Mr Grehan said he was surprised and "baffled'' at NAMA's latest actions.

"We had no warning of this at all,'' he said.

He added that he was working on sales plans for several of his assets and these buyers could now disappear due to NAMA's actions.

Mr Grehan runs his company Glenkerrin with his brother Daniel.

It is understood that NAMA imposed a non-executive director at Glenkerrin over recent months, but this appears to have caused some tension between the two sides.

In recent weeks NAMA and Mr Grehan were also working on issues relating to the security underlying some of his loans.

Mr Grehan told this newspaper the agency had asked him to renew the security on some of the loans, but NAMA declined to comment on the specifics of Glenkerrin's case.

NAMA has stepped up its enforcement activities in recent weeks, seizing assets from Jim Mansfield, Derek Quinlan and Paddy Kelly. Further enforcement action is also expected.

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