Sunday 4 December 2016

Minister's fury at 'arrogance' of Clerys' owners

Ged Nash hits out at 'breathtaking' diktats

Published 05/07/2015 | 02:30

‘DICTATING’ TERMS: Natrium Co-director Deirdre Foley
‘DICTATING’ TERMS: Natrium Co-director Deirdre Foley

Business and Employment Minister Ged Nash has described as "breathtakingly arrogant" attempts by the new owners of Clerys to "dictate" the timing and the terms of his proposed meeting with them.

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Responding to the minister's invitation to engage with him in advance of his presentation of a report to the Government this week on the sale and liquidation of Clerys, a representative for Natrium suggested that Mr Nash meet with them at the offices of their solicitors, A&L Goodbody, and that he should limit his questions to issues relating to their future plans for the iconic department store.

In a letter to the minister sent on June 29 last, Natrium co-director Deirdre Foley advised Mr Nash that she and her associates had been told that any "direct queries which you have regarding the liquidation… should be directed to the joint provisional liquidators".

Referring to his contacts with Natrium to date, Mr Nash told the Sunday Independent: "The tone and tenor of the correspondence has been breathtakingly arrogant. I object to it. It is entirely out of order for Natrium to seek to dictate the terms of engagement. It is not acceptable to me or the people I represent."

The minister expressed the same concern in a letter he sent to Ms Foley last Thursday.

Commenting on Natrium's suggestion that the liquidation of the iconic O'Connell Street department store should not be discussed at their proposed meeting, he wrote: "I would be interested to hear from you how it is possible to disconnect the sale and purchase of Clerys and the liquidation given the contemporaneous synchronicity of events in the early hours of June 12."

Describing the company's proposal that he meet with them at their solicitor's office as "highly unusual and not acceptable," Mr Nash suggested a meeting be held at his office tomorrow. He urged Ms Foley to make herself available to give Natrium's views on the sale and liquidation of Clerys as he was currently preparing an "urgent report" for Government on the matter.

Last Friday night, Ms Foley wrote back, informing the minister that neither she nor any of her colleagues would be able to meet with him tomorrow "due to prior work and travel commitments". She said she would appreciate it if his report to the Government noted that Natrium had offered to engage with him to discuss its plans for Clerys and its comments in respect of the store's liquidation. Explaining the suggestion that their meeting be held at the offices of A&L Goodbody, Ms Foley said this was Natrium's registered address. An examination of Companies Office records shows that Natrium changed the situation of its registered office to the high-profile legal firm last Wednesday.

Four hundred and sixty people lost their jobs with the shock closure of Clerys on June 12. Prior to its liquidation, 130 people had been employed directly by the famous department store while 330 more worked in the concessions within the famous O'Connell Street premises. The workers' predicament stands in stark contrast to Ms Foley whose own business's survival may not have been possible were it not for the support Nama gave to D2 Private, the property firm she co-founded in 2005 with developer David Arnold.

A spokesman for Ms Foley declined to comment on support D2 Private received from the taxpayer via Nama. A Nama spokesman said: "Nama acquired loans linked to 772 debtor connections. These connections experienced different levels of distress. As is on the public record, Nama is working consensually by value with 70pc of its debtors. Nama works with debtors on a consensual basis where this represents the best means of maximising the amounts that can be recovered to repay their debts for the benefit of Irish taxpayers. Nama is precluded by law from discussing the financial affairs of individual debtors."

Sunday Independent

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