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Monday 25 September 2017

Not a bad old life for skint Quinlan on the Riviera, n'est-ce pas?

St Tropez just what the doctor ordered for heart op financier

SHORT: Derek Quinlan on the Riviera.
SHORT: Derek Quinlan on the Riviera.

RONALD QUINLAN in St Tropez

IF one were to liken the boom and the bust that followed to a game of musical chairs, former King Midas to Ireland's great and good Derek Quinlan didn't just grab a chair when the music stopped. He resumed his throne.

Yesterday, the financier whom the UK's Private Eye magazine only recently described as a "dead man walking financially" appeared to be well on the road back from near ruin as he went for a stroll with his wife, Siobhan, through the French Riviera resort of St Tropez.

Dressed casually in a navy blue polo shirt and a tastefully matched pair of floral-patterned Bermuda shorts, Mr Quinlan completed his look with a Panama hat that allowed him to effortlessly blend in just the way he always has done with the world's wealthiest.

The former tax inspector certainly appeared to be a shadow of his former self physically, following the recent heart bypass operation he underwent.

However, that didn't stop him from going for a lengthy walk in the midday sun from his accommodation at the 5-star Byblos St Tropez Hotel – favoured by screen legend Brigitte Bardot – to the port where the multi-million euro super-yachts of tycoons from around the world drop anchor for the summer season.

In the weeks between the celebration of Bastille Day on July 14 and Napoleon's birthdate of August 15, St Tropez is known as the place to be for the moneyed elite.

Quite apart from the floating palaces of the German bond traders and Russian oligarchs, the narrow roads leading in to the former fishing village are bumper-to-bumper with Ferraris, Bentleys and Lamborghinis.

The Mercedes S350 meanwhile, the car once so beloved of the Irish property developer class, is invariably used to ferry the impatient rich from the helicopters taking them from Nice airport to the landing pad, which for this season is located at the St Tropez polo club.

Given the catastrophe that struck the global economy in 2008, one would have to conclude that Mr Quinlan's life isn't a bad one at all.

Indeed, given the massive punts he took on property in the lead-in to the crash through his involvement, for instance, in the €412m purchase of the former Irish Glass Bottle site, he could very easily have found himself joining the swollen ranks of the numerous Irish property developers and speculators who took flight for the UK and the US to declare bankruptcy.

When times were good, he was known by his legion of investors – who included such luminaries as broadcasters Gay Byrne and Pat Kenny and former Attorney General Dermot Gleeson – as the man who turned one's pennies into pounds.

Now the world has turned and taken so many fortunes with it, but Mr Quinlan still retains his golden touch, notwithstanding the millions he owes personally to Nama, and by extension to the Irish taxpayer.

Indeed, when he isn't taking in the sun on the Riviera, the financier repairs in the evenings to a substantial home in the upmarket west London suburb of Putney. The rent alone on the Quinlan family residence comes to some €4,000 a week.

And while he has publicly stated that he is absolutely focused on working with Nama and his other creditor banks to pay down the rest of his debt, he would already appear to be on the comeback trail career-wise with his work as a consultant for his business associate, Gerry Murphy.

Of course, it can be easier to get through the tough times when one has friends such as the billionaire Barclay brothers, Sir Frederick and Sir David, willing to come to your assistance.

Indeed, Richard Faber, a key executive for the wealthy owners of the Telegraph and the Ritz hotel, conceded in London's High Court last year that they had extended some £3m (€3.5m) in payments over the course of a year, beginning in 2010, to support Mr Quinlan, whom they described as a "friend in need".

Those payments to him and his family needed to be put in context though, Mr Faber said, as their friend had effectively gifted a Chelsea property to the Barclays for use as a school.

The closeness of the relationship between Mr Quinlan and the Barclays is, however, far more significant when one considers the pivotal role he continues to play in determining the future of Coroin, the company behind the famous Claridge's, Connaught and Berkeley hotels in London.

For while the Barclays continue to control the debt behind the financier's 35 per cent stake in the iconic hotels, they would claim to have the upper hand in the ongoing battle for ownership against Coroin's biggest single shareholder, Belfast-born businessman Paddy McKillen.

But with his near 37 per cent stake in the company and the valuable support of the Qatari royal family's investment vehicle, Al Mirqab, Mr McKillen is determined to win the war.

If by any chance he feels like fighting his enemy on the beaches, he could do worse than take a trip to St Tropez to find them.

Sunday Independent

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