Business Irish

Saturday 21 October 2017

Smyth puts stamp on Arnotts assets with board changes

Noel Smyth
Noel Smyth
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Developer and solicitor Noel Smyth is putting his stamp on Arnotts Group, appointing himself and a number of key lieutenants as directors to the iconic Dublin retailer after securing control of the business.

Mr Smyth's Fitzwilliam Finance Partners gained control of Arnotts and a swathe of surrounding property last month after receiving competition approval for the deal.

Prior to that, Mr Smyth's Fitzwilliam Finance Partners owned half of Arnotts, with the other half owned by private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

Both sides had been vying to buy the other out but in May it emerged that Fitzwilliam had triumphed, in what is a major coup for Mr Smyth.

Other Fitzwilliam management that have been made directors of Arnotts companies are its property director Nigel Kinnaird; its finance director Bryan Lawlor; and in-house Fitzwilliam lawyer Alannah Smyth.

But while Mr Smyth and Fitzwilliam management have been made directors of a number of Arnotts companies, his own firm has inked a deal that will see the main Arnotts building and business owned and operated by a Weston family vehicle, Wittington.

Galen Weston and his extended family own Brown Thomas, Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason. The wider Weston family also has a major stake in Associated British Foods, the stockmarket-listed owner of Primark.

Wittington will own and operate the Arnotts store.

Fitzwilliam got its initial 50pc stake in Arnotts when it bought €140m in loans attached to the business from Ulster Bank. Apollo bought €230m in loans from Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, giving it the other half of Arnotts. Last month, Fitzwilliam received competition approval for the deal to buy Apollo's stake.

Last week, Fitzwilliam said it will close the Boyers store on Dublin's North Earl Street, impacting 83 jobs. Fitzwilliam had not been able to find an operator interested in taking on Boyers.

Ray Hernan, the chief executive of Arnotts was the former chief financial officer at Brown Thomas before taking on his current role. He's also a former finance director at Ryanair.

The latest publicly available set of accounts for Arnotts show that it generated revenue of €120m in for the year ended January 26, 2014, including sales by concessions.

Arnotts has a big debt pile after a fortune was spent during the boom buying neighbouring properties that were to be transformed into the so-called Northern Quarter retail area, which was expected to cost €700m.

Irish Independent

Also in Business