Thursday 27 April 2017

The State's great €129m rent drain

Debt-ridden banks and business tycoons benefit as cash-strapped Government is spending millions on leases despite collapse of the property market, says Roisin Burke

Broke builders, debt-ridden banks, Nama-hit developers, meat millionaires, business tycoons -- and even the Knights of Columbanus -- are among those who pocketed a whopping €129.3m in rent from the State last year, according to the latest figures from the Office of Public Works (OPW).

At €129.3m, the State's rent bill for 2010 was 18 per cent lower than 2009, when total state property rent stood at €156m.

However, in spite of tumbling commercial property values and the Marie Celeste-like emptiness of many prime office buildings in Dublin city centre, the State shelled out more in rent in 2010 than it did in 2008, when its spend was €118m.

With a rent roll of €8.8m a year, beef baron Larry Goodman may be the State's biggest landlord. Tenants include the Department of Finance, the Comptroller & Auditor General, the gardai and the Oireachtas, which is leasing Goodman company buildings around Dublin 2, including the massive Setanta Centre on Nassau Street.

Banjaxed developer Liam Carroll's rent book is worth €6.9m from properties owned with his wife Roisin and rented to the Director of Public Prosecutions and Department of Justice among others.

These properties are mainly in a big block on Upper Abbey Street, Dublin 1. Mr Carroll used to make millions more before companies such as Danninger and Marsule, which had valuable state leases, went to the wall.

A long-time major landlord to the state is John Byrne. His Dublin City Estates company bags annual rent of €1.08m for D'Olier Street House, which is leased to the Department of Social Protection, Fas and the Revenue Commissioners.

Mr Byrne's Alstead Securities rents out offices on Parnell Square to government departments including Trade and Enterprise and Social Protection and the state watchdog, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, earning a total yearly income north of €3m.

Builder Ray Grehan has had his travails lately, not least in his battles with Nama, but he still makes a sweet €2.18m from the Department of Agriculture, which rents its Maynooth Agriculture Office from him.

The rent on this office has bucked the downward trend -- it increased sharply from €1.47m in 2009.

While the Chicago Spire remains an embarrassing hole in the ground over in the United States, at home, more solid properties are lucrative for developer Garrett Kelleher.

Companies he is involved in rake in €2.10m income from tenants including the Government Publications Office on Molesworth Street, Dublin 2, the OPW, the Revenue Commissioners and other state bodies. Apollo House on Tara Street, Dublin 1, owned by Mr Kelleher's Cuprum Properties, is rented by the Revenue for €1.44m.

Dunnes Stores boss Margaret Heffernan is also a landlord to the Revenue Commissioners, which pays €1.96m a year for offices on South Great George's street to Silverwood Developments, where Ms Heffernan and her brother Frank Dunne are shareholders. Then, through the family retail empire Dunnes Stores, the Revenue also rents more office space on the same street for a further €1.82m.

Superquinn directors David Courtney and Terry Sweeney's Tabmaz Partnership earns €1m for its lease of the garda car pound in Tallaght.

The same pair are also garda landlords along with fellow Superquinn director and developer Jerry O'Reilly through Pecan Properties, which earns €2.5m from garda offices in Harcourt Square, Dublin 2.

ESB chairman and tycoon Lochlann Quinn bags an annual €1.75m from the Revenue, which is a tenant at his property at 85-93 Mount Street in Dublin 2.

Developer and Toyota dealership scion Joe Linder's family firm, Linders of Smithfield, is coining €1.27m annually from its lease to the Probation Office in Smithfield, Dublin 7.

The companies of developer and theatre and music venue impresario Harry Crosbie net €733,092 from renting warehouse space to the customs and excise wing of the Revenue Commissioners at Dublin Port.

The man behind the O2 and the Grand Canal Theatre pockets another €90,103 for a lease at the port to the Department of Agriculture.

As well as controlling iconic Temple Bar properties Blooms Hotel and the Oliver St John Gogarty pub, Martin and Vera Keane earn €320,000 a year from renting 24 Merrion Square in Dublin 2 to the National Council for Curriculum Assessment.

Donegal developer Pat Doherty of Harcourt Developments is a director of Airscape, to which the Department of Transport pays €269,642 a year for a Park West office block. Lindat Developments, where Mr Doherty is also a director, is the landlord of the Donaghmede social welfare office, netting €268,910 in rent there.

Ryanair rents out Phoenix House on Conyngham Road to state organisations for €201,372.

The Dawn Meats dynasty, the Queallys, are directors of Goldstate, which makes €266,867 from government offices in Naas, Co Kildare.

Cork's Gandon Property, owned by Darragh Harte and Gerard Wycherly, makes €1.8m from renting its Amien Street property in Dublin to the Department of Social Protection.

Controversial former bankers John Hughes (an ex-AIB manager) and Thomas Browne (a former Anglo director) of the Ballybrit Partnership rent out a Galway city centre property to the Department of Agriculture and Department of Social Protection for more than €2.8m a year.

Decentralisation has meant the State coughs up serious money for leases in Carlow and Leitrim. The Department of Enterprise offices in Carlow earn the Mealey Murphy Fleming Partnership just over €800,000 a year.

In Carrick-on-Shannon, the Department of Social Protection rents from local developers Gerry Deane and Patsy Donegan's Lis Cara Partnership for €800,000.

Insurance giant Aviva owns One Park Place, Hatch Street, in Dublin 2 and gets more than €2m in rent from tenants including the Department of Agriculture, the Revenue and the Family Support Agency.

The Catholic businessmen's society, the Knights of Columbanus, adds a cool €721,419 to its coffers thanks to its letting of Ely Place, just off St Stephen's Green, to the Department of the Environment.

Offshoots of the blitzed banks are getting millions in state rent. Irish Life's pension wing is taking in more than €10m a year on state office rents around Dublin including from the departments of Justice and Enterprise at the Irish Life Centre on Abbey Street.

Meanwhile, the Department of Communications rents on Adelaide Road, Dublin 2, from Anglo Irish Bank's assurance division for €2.97m a year; while Bank of Ireland's New Ireland Assurance also has leases worth more than €500,000 to the State.

Broke developer Bernard McNamara and Superquinn director and developer Jerry O'Reilly formerly owned Belltrap. Now in receivership, it was once one of the major landlords to the State, getting €4.9m in rents from its extensive portfolio. Other sunk companies where Mr McNamara figured had state rent income running to hundreds of thousands of euro.

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