THE power couple who made a fortune selling off their empire at the peak of the boom are returning to the Irish property market in a move that could be seen as a sign that property prices have bottomed out.
Bernie Gallagher, of the Doyle Hotel Group, who made a killing by selling a hotel chain to Ireland's biggest developers at the tip of the boom, has bought a Dublin office block owned in a personal capacity by developer Johnny Ronan.
The glamourous daughter of legendary hotelier PV Doyle snapped up the Dublin office block Temple Chambers, Number 3 Burlington Road, at a price tag of €13.3m four months after it went on the market.
Meanwhile, her husband John Gallagher – the man once dubbed "the smartest guy in the room" – has also secured a deal to buy a €25m hotel in Cork. It is understood that the deal will see him take over the landmark four-star River Lee Hotel from developer Owen O'Callaghan.
Mr Gallagher's move to buy the property is the latest in a series of deals by shrewd investors indicating that the domestic property market has bottomed out.
Ms Gallagher and her husband John offloaded hotels to Bernard McNamara, Derek Quinlan and Sean Dunne at the height of the Celtic Tiger – amassing almost €2bn from the sales. The deals left the family with a choice portfolio of hotels and no debt with dividends of €888m being shared out by the family in recent years, while the group of developers' dreams now lie in tatters.
The distinctive six-storey Burlington Rd building was developed by Mr Ronan around a decade before he and Richard Barrett launched Treasury Holdings.
Mr Ronan's portfolio also includes Bewley's Cafe on Dublin's Grafton St, an office block on Herbert Street as well as Connaught House on Burlington Road where the tenants include the former Anglo Irish Bank.
Although Nama moved on Treasury Holdings and Battersea Power Station last year, they are said to be working with Mr Ronan on his personal portfolio.
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