PROPERTY investor Paddy McKillen's bitter battle with the billionaire Barclay brothers for control of the world famous Claridge's, Berkeley and Connaught hotels in London has taken yet another twist.
Legal costs between the warring sides are already running to millions of euro thanks to Mr McKillen's ongoing efforts through the London courts to reverse the Barclays' acquisition of the debt behind financier Derek Quinlan's stake in the iconic hotels.
The bitterness within the boardroom is set to deepen even further this week with the Belfast businessman instructing lawyer to the stars, Paul Tweed, to initiate libel proceedings in the High Court in Dublin.
On the receiving end of Mr McKillen's defamation claim are a leading public relations company, the Powerscourt Group, and Maybourne Finance Ltd, both of whom have been representing the interests of the Barclay brothers in the ongoing battle for control of Coroin – the company behind Claridge's, the Berkeley and the Connaught.
Central to the dispute is a press release issued on November 30 last by the Powerscourt Group – which is headed up by former Sunday Times editor Rory Godson. Mr McKillen believes that remarks attributed to Maybourne director Philip Peters in that press release were defamatory of him as they questioned his motivation for bringing proceedings before the UK Court of Appeal at the end of last year.
Separately, the Sunday Independent has learnt there has been correspondence on the matter between Mr McKillen's legal team and Maybourne Finance's lawyers, Weil Gotshal & Manges, in recent weeks.
And while it is understood Maybourne director Philip Peters has given an undertaking not to repeat the statement which Mr McKillen claims is defamatory, he has done so "without prejudice" and to "avoid further aggravation" while lawyers for the parties attempt to deal with the matter. It is understood that neither Maybourne Finance or Mr Peters accept the contention that his statement was either defamatory or damaging to Mr McKillen.
Contacted by the Sunday Independent, Maybourne Finance declined to comment. A Powerscourt Group spokesman said the company does not comment on its work for clients.