Friday 22 September 2017

King Midas hasn't lost touch as Quinlan lives high life in London

Top financier still personally owes Nama €200m, yet lives in a €4,000-a-week mansion and drives a new Range Rover

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

DEREK Quinlan, the man who Ireland's moneyed professional classes once held up as their very own King Midas, hasn't lost his touch.

Indeed, last Thursday morning even the rain appeared to stop on cue for the former tax inspector turned financier as he stepped outside the front door of his latest home in the upmarket London suburb of Putney.

Pausing momentarily on the plinth of the impressive period pile for which the rent is an eye-watering £3,463 (€4,144) a week, Mr Quinlan rubbed his balding pate and took in a lungful of fresh morning air before clicking open the driver's door of the £90,000 (€108,000) Range Rover that sits alongside the BMW 615 convertible in the house's gravelled driveway.

Not bad for a man who only last April saw Nama appoint a receiver to many of his trophy properties in Dublin as part of its efforts to recover the €600m he is understood to have personally owed the Irish taxpayer when his loans were first transferred to the agency.

There was little evidence last Thursday morning that the State's so-called 'bad bank' has been troubling Mr Quinlan unduly since that move.

Indeed, well-placed sources have told the Sunday Independent that the high-living businessman managed to splash out over £10,000 (€12,000) at the Berkeley Hotel over the Christmas period.

It seems to have taken a visit from the Sunday Independent to remind the publicity-averse tycoon that all is not right with the world, or at least the world that he has left behind him in Ireland.

The last time I came face to face with Derek Quinlan was in Switzerland where he had gone to live for, what a spokesman described at the time as, "tax and personal reasons". On that occasion, he accused this newspaper of trying to invade his privacy when we looked for him to elaborate on the reasons for his surprise departure.

Two years on, the mystery of Mr Quinlan's moves to Geneva and to London has deepened. But that mystery pales in comparison to the curiosity his cordial relations with Nama is now stirring amongst developers, a number of whom have, in stark contrast, had the proverbial book thrown at them by the State's so-called 'bad bank'.

That's what I wanted to ask Derek Quinlan about when he stopped and rolled down the window of the Range Rover. His friendly smile and genial "good morning" gave way to a frown as I addressed him by his first name.

With little more than a dismissive snort, he put his well-shod foot to the floor and let the ferocious growl of the Range Rover's engine do his talking for him as he sped off.

There was no sign later in the morning of Mr Quinlan at the business address he maintains just a mile from his house. But that doesn't surprise those former clients and associates who have been watching his hopscotch moves across the globe over the past two years.

According to informed sources, much of Mr Quinlan's business and his meetings are conducted in the centre of London these days, with the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane said to be a venue that he favours particularly.

Given the endless stream of Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes S Class limousines that the Sunday Independent witnessed ferrying a plethora of fabulously wealthy Arabs, Russians and Chinese to the hotel's entrance last week, it's evident that Derek Quinlan's strategy of following the money -- wherever it might be -- continues.

For make no mistake about it, while the world may be in the throes of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, London has become a magnet for those who have made their fortunes and are now determined to hold on to them.

In short, it's the very place for a man like Derek Quinlan to find fresh investors for the kind of blue-chip properties that he and a select coterie of Irish developers and businessmen bought at the height of the boom.

If you want to see where the real wealth is these days, you only have to take a stroll down New Bond Street where in the Celtic Tiger years, Mr Quinlan and others such as David Daly, Aidan Brooks, JP McManus and John Magnier snapped up buildings whose tenants included DKNY, Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, Bulgari, Chanel and Prada .

Where the money might talk in London's upstart rival New York, on New Bond Street the wealth whispers behind closed doors while stony-faced bodyguards stand on the pavement and act as a deterrent to rakes and rascals who might be in the market for a proverbial five-finger discount.

Discretion and the space to conduct one's business privately are prized commodities among London's super rich and those individuals who court their wealth, individuals like Derek Quinlan.

But with the legal battle between Belfast-born property investor Paddy McKillen and the billionaire Barclay brothers for control of the Maybourne Hotel Group set to commence in London's High Court in March, Mr Quinlan could find himself very much in the spotlight given the central role he played in the hotels' €1.1bn acquisition by Irish investors (including Mr McKillen) in 2004.

He could also find himself answering questions on the role he may, or may not be, playing now in determining the future of the prestigious Berkeley, Claridge's and Connaught hotels, given the Barclay brothers' purchase of Bank of Scotland loans for which he gave shares in the Maybourne Group as security.

With Nama joined as a party to the High Court action as a result of its role in the sale of €800m of the Maybourne Hotels' senior debt to the Barclay brothers, any scrutiny of Derek Quinlan's personal financial affairs has the potential to embarrass the agency given the stated determination of its chairman Frank Daly to curb the excesses of the developers and speculators on its books.

Sunday Independent

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