Tuesday 28 March 2017

McKillen wanted Clerys to be the Bloomingdales of Dublin

Staff and supporters protest outside Clerys on O’Connell Street, Dublin, last week
Staff and supporters protest outside Clerys on O’Connell Street, Dublin, last week
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Developer Paddy McKillen, who bid for Clerys but lost out to Dublin private equity group D2, had planned to revamp the premises into a destination store modelled on France's Galeries Lafayette and New York's Bloomingdales department stores, it is understood.

Belfast-born McKillen was one of the under-bidders for Clerys but was beaten by Natrium, the joint venture owned by Deirdre Foley's D2 Capital and Britain's Cheyne Capital.

Earlier this month, Natrium paid €29m to Boston-based investment group Gordon Brothers for the store, which it immediately put into liquidation with the loss of 400 jobs.

Belfast-born McKillen, who recently sold his stakes in luxury London hotels The Connaught, Claridges and Berkeley, bid for Clerys with business partner Tony Leonard through their business, Clarendon Properties.

McKillen and Clarendon declined to comment via a spokesperson.

The company wanted to keep Clerys' brand and employees, it is understood.

A major revamp of the store was planned to emphasise its heritage, in particular its role in the 1916 rising.

The Clerys business was founded in 1853 but the building it occupied only dates from 1922, having been completely destroyed in the 1916 Easter Rising. A new restaurant was also planned for the premises.

Clarendon Properties has a track record in retail. It owns the buildings on Dublin's College Green which are leased to Abercrombie and H&M, as well as Jervis Street and Nutgrove Shopping Centre.

Others who had hoped to buy Clerys included the store's former chairman Eoin McGettigan, who was willing to pay €20m but was never asked to make a formal bid. Like McKillen, McGettigan also wanted to continue to run Clerys as a retail store.

The liquidation of Clerys and ensuing loss of jobs has provoked criticism at the highest levels of Government, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton both condemning the speed at which the closure was performed.

The Government may amend company law to prevent similar situations occurring in future, Communications Minister Alex White said over the weekend.

Speaking on RTÉ's 'The Week in Politics', Mr White said: "If there is a way we can amend company law we will do that, but there is no law we can introduce in the Dáil next week to eradicate capitalism."

Irish Independent

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