Irish News

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Irish developer Philip Marley meets reality TV's hot property

Irish developer Philip Marley has befriended a US reality star and is working on a new show, writes Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Published 15/07/2012|05:00

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A VISION FOR TELEVISION: Irish property developer Philip Marley with reality TV star Dana Wilkey, one of the stars from the hit show 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills'

HE once described himself as the Stelios Haji-Ioannou -- the EasyJet founder -- of the property world, building a €22m company from scratch with a view to making investing in property simple and accessible to everyone.

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But now that the property market has imploded, and he is in discussions with IBRC over an estimated €10m loan, Irish developer Philip Marley has hit the bright lights of Hollywood for his next big venture.

In recent weeks Mr Marley has been seen and photographed with reality star Dana Wilkey from the hit US television show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

The 40-year-old developer said they met through mutual friends at a party on July 4 and are busy co-producing a new show entitled Rich and Ditched.

"It's about a bunch of 40-plus divorcees who are incredibly wealthy and living in Malibu and it's about the experiences they share together," says Mr Marley, the former head of Ely Properties -- which was once the largest provider of student accommodation in Ireland.

The Irish builder is described as a millionaire on US gossip sites, and his reality TV co-producer has told her followers on Twitter that she finds the Dublin man "earth shattering", adding "Am I dreaming?".

The property entrepreneur, who lives between Dublin, London and LA, said: "She's an amazing character. We are two people who have a vision of what television should be like."

Rich and Ditched will air on US television in the coming months but the Dubliner said he is wary of how showbusiness differs from his past line of work.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent last week, Mr Marley said: "I think TV and fame is an addictive game and people sacrifice a lot to get their hands on it. And by virtue of that -- it's dangerous."

Mr Marley, who now runs the multi-million euro company Space Student Living, said he continues to hold the coveted status of a 'millionaire' despite being burned badly when the recession hit. "I invested in a number of businesses and got involved in what I call 'egonomics'. I invested with my ego and not with my brain."

But he said: "I'm starting over again and not without the shadows of the past. But I'm not afraid to stand up and say I'm going for it again. We're entitled to recycle ourselves. I'm not going to hold back on saying that out of fear. Because when you are afraid you are finished and a man should never be afraid."

Asked how much he owes to IBRC -- formerly Anglo Irish Bank, he said: "They are asking for the value of a building in Portsmouth which is about €10m -- but we have to sell it to see what it's worth."

Reflecting on the boom-time madness he said: "Everyone in Ireland was lent too much money. If I fill a room full of sweets and I send in a bunch of four year olds and I don't put a limit on how much they can eat, you're going to have a room full of very sick children.

"They had drive-through banking. Making a phone call and being offered a bank draft into the millions within two hours.

"It's like mom keeping a lock on the cookie jar. All the blame for the Irish problem lies with the Financial Regulator. Period.

"For me the lowest point would have been not being able to sleep at night and thinking is this f***ing worth it? Nobody came out of the real estate market unscathed. The recession affected me hugely in some ways," he added.

Detailing his move away from property into reality TV he said: "Property was in fashion from 2000-2006. Now it's out of fashion and businessmen who keep moving forward and who are successful need to look at what's in fashion now."

"There are some brilliant people exiting this country. It's not right. We have to cop on. In Ireland we are self-analysing -- people are terrified now to say they are having another go because they think they are going to draw on some old problem that they've had. I'm not. We've had problems, it was a nightmare, but we're getting through it."

Mr Marley, whose multi-million euro company Space Student Living has just made a trading profit of €1.2m, said he is now setting his sights further afield.

"We're focusing in the US on the University of Pepperdine and Santa Monica University for our student housing. We've just completed a deal on a new site in Glasgow for 120 beds and that's been funded by our Scottish hedge fund backers and we're working with another hedge fund in London who are about to invest €5m in the main company, but they're also putting together a €50m fund. They share my vision for a global student housing business.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent this weekend, Ms Wilkey said she has a soft spot for Irish men. "We have a lot in common. Irish men remind me of Braveheart," she laughed.

Ms Wilkey, who spent last summer in Ireland golfing at the Ritz Carlton estate, is of Irish-Italian descent with her ancestors hailing from Cork.

"I party like I'm Irish -- and I'm hoping to organise some big social events in Dublin in the coming months," she promised.

Sunday Independent

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