Smurfit companies in court action against city landlord
TWO companies in the Smurfit Kappa group claim the refusal of the landlord of a Dublin printing premises to consent to essential works was a significant factor leading to the closure of the printing facility in 2008 with the loss of 140 jobs.
Smurfit Kappa Ireland and Smurfit Kappa Printing have brought proceedings in the Commercial Court against Botanic Business Centre Ltd over the dispute.
In 2003, Smurfit Web Press merged in a joint venture to become Lithographic Web Press (LWP) which operated from the Botanic Road industrial estate in Glasnevin.
The printing premises, which housed the largest colour printing operation in Ireland at the time, was the main tenant in the estate which had a number of smaller units.
Smurfits claim that in 2003/04, Botanic unreasonably withheld permission to carry out works which were critical to the business.
These included works to prevent emissions from a piece of equipment which required a licence from the Environmental Protection Agency.
They claim this was done in an attempt by Botanic to get vacant possession of the premises.
They also claim Botanic unfairly linked a dispute over service charges to the dispute over the improvement works.
Smurfits says Botanic significantly increased the charges when it bought the premises from the previous owners. Smurfits had enjoyed an uninterrupted tenancy in Glasnevin for 30 years.
Botanic denies the claims and says Smurfits had breached the terms of its licence by carrying out works without permission. It claims Smurfits did not provide enough information and expert research about the works it required to carry out.
Opening the case for Smurfits, Eoin McCullough SC, said the refusal to consent to the works was a "significant factor" which led the joint venture, LWP, to case trading in the first quarter of 2008. All the printing works were cleared out by 2009.
Smurfits continued to pay rent up until the initiation of these proceedings in 2014 and made attempts to sub-let the premises but without success. Save for about three of the smaller units, it is today effectively "a ghost estate", counsel said.
The case continues before Mr Justice Robert Haughton.