Dunne wife now set up as developer in the US
Husband's New York real estate firm transferred into Gayle's name
Published 06/01/2011 | 05:00
THE wife of indebted builder Sean Dunne has set herself up as a property developer in the US.
Mrs Dunne (36), a former gossip columnist, has also been raising finance to purchase development properties, emails between her and her former lawyer confirm.
In an email exchange with lawyer Philip Teplen, Mrs Dunne wrote: "I already have a visa and I am here to develop property."
Details of the former newspaper journalist's new career were revealed in documents filed with a New York court after Mrs Dunne claimed she was swindled by Mr Teplen out of $500,000 (€375,000) which was to be used for a property deal.
However, the documents do not reveal where she secured the finance for her foray into the American real estate market. Mrs Dunne's husband is dealing with NAMA and has massive debts with non-NAMA banks following unsuccessful attempts to redevelop the Jurys and Berkeley Court hotel sites in Dublin, which he bought for €379m in 2005.
Mrs Dunne said in a recent statement she had no debts with any institutions covered by the bank guarantee nor was she the subject of any NAMA loans.
In the event that Mr Dunne is ever unable to repay his loans to either NAMA or any other financial institution, then it is likely those institutions would seek to establish whether any of his assets have been transferred to her as part of her property venture.
The couple, who were prominent figures on the Dublin social scene, moved to the US last year and are renting a $7m mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Last May a real estate company called Mountbrook USA was incorporated in Connecticut.
Company records named Sean Dunne (56) as the principal in the company, which listed an office address on the 57th floor of New York's Empire State Building. However, these records were altered over the Christmas period when Mrs Dunne was listed as the sole principal in the firm and her involvement was backdated to April 29 last year. It is unclear what assets Mountbrook USA has as it has yet to file accounts.
Further evidence that Mrs Dunne has set herself up as a developer later emerged in court records.
Mrs Dunne is suing Mr Teplen after he allegedly failed to return $500,000 he was holding in an escrow account on her behalf for a land deal in Chicago.
In emails linked to the case, Mrs Dunne wrote about how she was involved in a property deal that she needed "to close on immediately".
In another exchange on December 11, she told Mr Teplen she had finance in place "for the closing and development" of a site.
She asked him to free up the funds in the escrow account so that she could make a downpayment -- instructions the lawyer subsequently failed to comply with.
Mrs Dunne also revealed in the email that she had other unspecified funds available to her. She said these were "currently in an investment portfolio which is performing well".
An earlier email, dated December 10, revealed she was uneasy about the fact that company records indicated links between her husband, Mountbrook USA, and a property on Bush Avenue in Greenwich.
Mr Dunne has publicly denied being the owner of the Bush Avenue property. Its true ownership is hidden behind a trust being administered by Mr Teplen.
Mrs Dunne expressed concern about the publicly available document, writing: "It appears there is something on file in the Secretary of State's office in Connecticut that links Bush Ave to Mountbrook and Mountbrook to Sean Dunne. Do you know what that could be?"
The lawyer did not respond.
Mrs Dunne later secured a court order that compels Mr Teplen to produce her money or give a convincing reason why he does not have it.
Mrs Dunne said in court papers she believed Mr Teplen may have used the cash to pay debts run up by his estranged wife. It has also emerged that a Canadian couple filed a similar lawsuit against Mr Teplen last November. He declined to comment when contacted.