Positive signs for 'Baron of Ballsbridge'
Published 05/08/2010 | 05:00
SEAN Dunne entered the public consciousness in 2005 when he paid €379m for the high-profile 6.85-acre Jury's Berkeley Court site in Dublin 4.
At the time it was a record price paid for land in Ireland.
Five years after the deal went through, the Carlow-born businessman is still waiting for planning permission to build something on the site and his banks have since taken a stake in the hotels.
Experts say the site is now worth about €100m -- a quarter of what he had paid.
It is a far cry from the days of the Celtic Tiger when Mr Dunne (55) was master of all he surveyed.
The quantity surveyor earned his fortune building in south Dublin, and earned the nickname 'Baron of Ballsbridge' after saying he wanted the Dublin 4 suburb to become the "Knightsbridge" of Dublin.
His swashbuckling approach to property development saw him unveil plans to demolish Jury's/Berkeley Court and replace the buildings with a scheme that included a 37-storey tower.
Residents living in Ireland's most expensive suburb were not impressed, and the plan was shot down by the planning appeals board. A more modest scheme is still in the planning process.
In January last year, he gave a frank interview about his situation to the 'New York Times'.
"The Celtic Tiger may be dead, and if the banking crisis continues I could be considered insolvent.
"But the one thing that I have is my wife and children -- that they can't take away from me," he said.
Since then, high-profile plans for a string of redevelopment projects have floundered due to planning difficulties.
Much of Mr Dunne's borrowings are with banks not going into NAMA. They may continue to bankroll his projects in order to safeguard their investment.
Last year Ulster Bank, Rabobank and the Icelandic bank Kaupthing took a stake in the Ballsbridge hotels.
Yesterday, Mr Dunne said the decision to grant permission for Hume House "augured well" for the future development of the city.