Rivals fret as Nama moves on Quinlan
The message coming from the State agency is clear: if you don't play ball, you will lose it all, writes Neil Callanan
Published 17/04/2011 | 05:00
NAMA'S decision last week to appoint a receiver to nine houses owned by Derek Quinlan, his wife, his daughter and his daughter's husband is just the beginning for the asset management agency.
Sources say the agency has told developers that they must sell all but one of their houses, including possibly their principle private residence, as part of the work-out of their loans with Nama.
Property sources said last week that Nama was demanding that, even when the house did not have a mortgage or was in the name of a developer's wife, the home will have to be sold. Several sources also said that the family home the developers end up in must be worth less than €700,000, or €500,000 in some cases. The only exception will be in the case of a separation, where a wife will be allowed retain a residence.
"The attitude is 'get off the fence'," said a source familiar with Nama's thinking.
"They can't enforce it legally on the principle private residence, but the attitude is if you're staying in the game and you want Nama to be your partners they're going to have to be sold."
One developer is said to own almost 30 houses -- and the joke last week was that he will now have to rent apartments for his girlfriends, rather than put them up in houses he owns. Another of the major developers bought a house in Foxrock for himself and his family to live in while they renovated another one they owned around the corner -- the market tanked and they lost millions on their temporary home.
The move on Quinlan's residences is believed to be related to this wider move by Nama. Fail to play ball and you lose the asset.
People who have met Quinlan on a few occasions describe him as arrogant and boorish, but those who know him better speak about his innate sense of optimism.
"His inability to see potential downfalls even after the lights went out was probably one of the biggest reasons for his fall. He could never see things badly -- his worst-case scenario was always way too optimistic," said a person who knows him.
His altruism led to him becoming a leading player on the charity ball circuit. When Quinlan showed up, the organisers knew donations would be made.
Quinlan made his name as a tax inspector at the Revenue before moving into private practice and eventually forming Quinlan Private.
He really made his mark with the tax avoidance schemes that were introduced to stimulate regeneration.
Quinlan and his rivals used to tell investors that they'd more than double their money -- they'd write off their investment against tax and be left at the end with the investments, which were soaring in value during the property bubble.
Even when things went wrong, they went right. After a number of planning refusals, they sold The Grange site in south Dublin in 2004 for €85m, just four years after they bought the land for €31.75m. If planning had been secured earlier, the site would undoubtedly have been sold for less.
Later that year, Quinlan Private bought the Savoy Group of hotels for €1.1bn, flipped on the Savoy Hotel itself, turning a quick profit, and then rebranded the remaining Claridge's, Connaught and The Berkeley as Maybourne Hotel Group.
More luxury hotels would be added, it said, but it never happened. Instead, a bitter takeover battle for the hotel group is under way because of its complicated ownership structure.
As the downturn hit, some of the deals Quinlan struck began to look pricey and ill-judged. Quinlan Private, now called Avestus, bought Jurys Inns for more than €1.1bn in 2007 but it lost more than €101m in 2009 after losing more than stg£50m total in the previous two years. Last month, a shopping centre in Germany bought by Quinlan Private for €170m in 2006 had an insolvency administrator appointed.
Avestus made about five cash calls to investors in 2009, including one for a €1.2bn Marriott hotels portfolio in Britain that was bought by a consortium of Israeli inves- tors.
Two months ago, Property Week reported that talks were under way for RBS and Lehman to take a 25 per cent stake in that portfolio in a debt for equity swap. Avestus had not replied to a request for comment about that deal at the time of writing.
Meanwhile, Quinlan's personal investments also took a battering.
He has put his house at La Villa Carriere on Cap Ferrat in the south of France up for sale and is expected to lose millions on it; Bank of Ireland is about to leave its headquarters on Baggot Street leaving him and his fellow investors without a tenant, while he also invested in the struggling Beacon Shopping Centre in Sandyford in south Dublin.
Nama is also forcing him to sell his Citigroup tower in London, where he'll be lucky to break even, and he and business partner Glenn Maud are in a battle with debt owners to maintain control of the Santander bank headquarters in Madrid, which they bought for €1.9bn in 2008.
Now, some of his trophy houses will hit the market. The trigger was pulled after a "painstaking" negotiation process which every borrower in Nama must succumb to.
If they don't engage in the process, they are served with a demand notice demanding repayment in full within about 24 hours.
Quinlan and his family obviously failed to do so and the receiver was appointed.
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