Saturday 10 December 2016

Mastermind of disputed Clerys deal to get payout of €600k

Gordon Deegan and Alan O'Keeffe

Published 05/10/2016 | 02:30

Former Clerys workers and supporters protesting outside the department store. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Former Clerys workers and supporters protesting outside the department store. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

The businesswoman at the centre of the controversy around the closure of iconic store Clerys is in line to be paid €600,000, it has emerged.

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Deirdre Foley's Natrium emerged as the consortium behind the purchase of Clerys building, as part of a chain of events that led to the store's closure and loss of 460 jobs,

Deirdre Foley, head of the consortium that bought the Clerys building. Pic: Collins Courts
Deirdre Foley, head of the consortium that bought the Clerys building. Pic: Collins Courts

The store was sold by US private equity firm Gordon Brothers to Ms Foley's and Cheyne Capital's Natrium consortium for €29m.

Natrium kept the property arm and flipped the operating business to Jim Brydie, an insolvency practitioner who promptly put the business into liquidation.

Ms Foley has a 20pc interest in Natrium and new accounts show Natrium is due to pay a fee of €600,000 to a firm owned by Ms Foley, called FAM Assets Ltd.

The fee is repayable in June 2017 or on the disposal of the shares or assets of the Natrium firm that is looking to redevelop Clerys, OCS Properties, or on any early repayment of the shareholder's loans.

A former Clerys worker said news of the payment would generate a lot of interest among former employees.

"It must be nice to get such a big sum of money," said former bedroom furniture department salesman Gerry Markey (54).

"With the sudden closure, we were sunk without warning. Clerys workers are still hurting. We should have got more than statutory redundancy payments.

"A lot of former loyal staff are aged in their 60s and their social welfare payments are being cut.

"So the news of someone getting €600,000 sort of sticks in the throat.

"We're still trying to get a meeting with her and Natrium. We deserve some answers about what happened."

The Natrium accounts disclose that FAM Assets has provided a loan of €1.9m to Natrium and the balance due had a net present value of €1.7m at the end of December last.

In addition, the Natrium accounts show that another firm owned by Ms Foley, FAM Acquisitions Ltd, pocketed just over €200,000 for services provided to Natrium last year.

A note attached to the accounts show FAM Acquisitions Ltd provides services to the value of €259,450 to Natrium and €56,825 was outstanding at the end of December last.

The accounts also show the Natrium subsidiary behind the €150m redevelopment of Clerys last year, OCS Properties, recorded profits of €10.66m.

However, this is largely as a result of a €13.5m increase in the valuation of the Clerys property that had a book value of €31m at the end of December last. Cancelling out the paper gains made by OCS Properties Ltd, sister firm OCS Investment Holdings Ltd last year recorded a loss of €11.33m.

The Natrium accounts also show it is in line to receive management fees of more than €715,000 from the two OCS firms.

OCS Properties Ltd incurred management fees of €533,630 to Natrium and this amount was due to Natrium at the end of December last. Another subsidiary of Natrium, OCS Investment Holdings Ltd incurred management fees of €181,864 to Natrium and the entire balance was due to the firm at year end.

Ms Foley and her firm, D2 Private Ltd, are currently challenging in the High Court an investigation by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) into the circumstances around the redundancy of the Clerys workers at the offices of D2 Private Ltd.

A note attached to the Natrium accounts states that it was not the employer of the workers made redundant and that OCS Operations Ltd was the employer and the redundancies were directed by the then provisional liquidators.

A ruling on the case has yet to be made.

Irish Independent

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