independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Exec quit Nama 'because of State interference'

Row over money led to senior man's resignation

A former senior executive at Nama has accused the Government of "interference" in the toxic loans agency, and blamed the Department of Finance specifically for his early departure.



Speaking for the first time about his surprise resignation last January as Nama's head of lending and corporate finance, Graham Emmett rejected the suggestion that he had fallen out with Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh and pointed the finger of blame at Finance Minister Michael Noonan's department.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent from the offices of ICG Longbow Real Estate Capital in London, where he has just been appointed as a partner, Mr Emmett said: "I don't have any issues with Brendan McDonagh and I don't think he has any issues with me. My issues lay with your Government.

"It has nothing at all to do with the board or the executive of Nama. The reasons I left were more to do with Michael Noonan's office rather than anything else. I have no problem with the board of Nama. My issue was the interference by Government in the employment contracts that had been signed."

Asked if his early departure from Nama had anything to do with the decision not to pay bonuses to its employees last year, he said: "It's not just that. It's the minimum salary and the requests for [pay] reductions and the long-term incentive plan, the whole gamut. It's not just to do with bonuses."

Spokesmen for both Nama and for the Department of Finance declined to comment.

While 15 employees have resigned from their positions at Nama since the beginning of this year, Mr Emmett is one of a smaller number of key executives to have exited from the agency recently to seek opportunities elsewhere.

According to its website, Mr Emmett's new employers, ICG Longbow Real Estate, specialise in providing access to credit funds specialising in UK commercial real estate debt.

Only last week, Ronan Fox, a former senior asset manager at Nama, took up a new position as a real estate adviser with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA). Prior to his departure from Nama, Mr Fox had been responsible for borrower repayment plans, asset strategy and managing the selling down of a distressed loan portfolio of some €6bn, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Mr Fox's new employers, the ADIA, has shown a renewed interest in UK real estate, reportedly closing in on a deal to buy a portfolio of 42 Marriott hotels currently in administration.

The Marriott portfolio had been owned by a joint­venture between Avestus Capital Partners (the investment company that was formerly Derek Quinlan's Quinlan Private), Israeli investor Igal Ahouvi, and Israeli investment company Delek Global Real Estate.

Selena Dicker -- a former team leader in lending and corporate finance at Nama -- resigned from her position with the agency last August, having spent two years working there. Commenting on her current status, Ms Dicker has posted what would appear to be a tongue-in-cheek remark on her LinkedIn profile, saying simply: "Gardening and yachting until further notice."

Asked in an interview with the Sunday Independent last July how many Nama employees had been "poached" from it to date, Nama chairman Frank Daly said: "In the past few months we have certainly lost half a dozen key people simply because they are being poached and that is a concern for us.

"We're concerned because we need those skills and people of that type of expertise and calibre to get the best result out of our portfolio."

Asked what safeguards Nama had in place to protect it against the possibility that former employees could be snapped up by investment funds with a view to exploiting their insight into its operations, Mr Daly said: "We have in their contracts constraints and clauses about confidentiality... and if they end up coming back into Nama and try to do business with us on behalf of some fund there would be restrictions on that."

Sunday Independent

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