Wednesday 1 March 2017

How Nama risked 800 Sky jobs

Ronald Quinlan and John Drennan

THE creation of more than 800 new jobs in Dublin by broadcasting giant Sky came perilously close to being scuppered after Nama refused to back down on its demand that the company lease more office space than it actually needed.

The Sunday Independent can reveal that Sky -- unhappy with the terms being insisted upon by the State's 'bad bank' -- was ready to bring all 800 jobs to the UK and reversed its decision only after Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton rowed in to ensure the deal was done.

Informed sources close to the negotiations have told this newspaper that Sky was on the point of giving up on plans to base its new employees in the Burlington Plaza building in Dublin in the face of the repeated demand that it take up more space than the 35,000 sq ft it required as Nama sought to protect its own bottom line.

Asked if they could explain Nama's stubborn determination to push its demands in the face of the very real threat they posed to the creation of 800 jobs, a source close to matter said: "If the building isn't rented out completely to one tenant, rates and management fees kick in for Nama.

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"They were doing whatever they could to avoid that scenario. They would have been liable for the fees for the empty space and they didn't want that at all."

The Sunday Independent has learned from highly placed government sources that Mr Bruton was deeply concerned when he became aware of the issue and the growing obstacle it presented to job creation in a series of contracts from Sky.

Shocked by Nama's apparent intransigence, Mr Bruton immediately contacted the IDA's chief executive, Barry O'Leary, to express his displeasure and to insist that "everything possible would be done" to secure the Sky jobs. Asked if the minister had contacted Nama directly, one informed source close to the matter said: "Richard didn't contact Nama directly. It was made clear to Nama through the appropriate channels, however, that he was absolutely determined that everything possible should be done so that these jobs would come to Dublin.

"Richard was absolutely engaged with this from the moment [Sky director] Mark Deering approached his department early last summer."

Asked what channels Mr Bruton had gone through to inform Nama of his views, the source said: "He made a number of calls. His first call was to Barry O'Leary at the IDA. He called Barry and asked 'what's going on here?'."

Commenting on the impact of Mr Bruton's eleventh-hour intervention, a separate source close to the negotiations with Sky said that Nama's position changed "overnight".

Quite apart from the direct and indirect benefits to the Irish economy of the 800 jobs Sky intends to create here over the next two years is the fact that none of the positions will require the support of the IDA through the financial incentives frequently offered to international companies looking to locate here.

Sky plans to open its new customer service centre in the Burlington Plaza building in August and has already begun recruiting for the new positions, which range from customer service manager and advisor roles to training, coaching and human resources.

Sunday Independent

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