Ronan links to bidder damaged €900m deal
Nama 'uncomfortable' at proposal to purchase Treasury loans
Published 29/01/2012 | 05:00
A series of close links between developer Johnny Ronan and the Irish managing director of a company that tried to buy up to €900m worth of Treasury Holdings' loans from Nama has emerged as a contributing factor in the decision by the State's so-called 'bad bank' to appoint receivers, the Sunday Independent has learnt.
Prior to its decision to press ahead with the appointment of Ernst & Young to upwards of 35 properties in Treasury's Irish portfolio, Nama received proposals through the group on behalf of Australian investment bank Macquarie and the US property group Hines.
While Treasury Holdings has strongly insisted that both offers would have made commercial sense for Nama and by extension the Irish taxpayer, the Sunday Independent understands that links -- both direct and indirect -- between Hines' Irish managing director Brian Moran and Treasury Holdings chief Mr Ronan proved to be "uncomfortable" for the State agency.
Sources close to the matter insisted that while the links between the two men were not the "deciding factor" in Nama's move to appoint receivers, they were certainly a "contributing factor".
Further investigation by the Sunday Independent shows that Buildonline -- a company founded by Mr Moran in 1998 -- counted Treasury Holdings among its biggest clients while another of his companies, Urban Capital, has acted as a consultant for many of Ireland's biggest developer borrowers.
While Mr Moran was unavailable for comment yesterday, a spokesman for Hines said the company was "aware of his relationships (and those of his wife) with many of the larger borrowers and banks in Ireland through his prior development management consultancy".
The spokesman was adamant that any approach Hines made to Nama was based "solely on a commercial basis and with the knowledge of Brian's relationships in the Irish property industry".
Be that as it may, Mr Moran's associations with Treasury Holdings, and with Mr Ronan specifically, are even more pronounced, however, when it comes to his wife, Deirdre Lemass.
Records held at the Companies Office show that Ms Lemass, an accountant by profession, is a co-director of 14 companies with Mr Ronan, his son John Jr, and Treasury Holdings director Rory Williams.
Approached by the Sunday Independent yesterday at her home in Rathmines, Ms Lemass refused to make any comment on either her own or Mr Moran's close business links to Mr Ronan.
The companies are: Neway Investments Ltd, Hornbill Ltd, Academy Geographic Ltd, Ardquade Ltd, Lanaree Ltd, Rosebrook Ltd, Woodreed Investments Ltd, Castle Cove Property Developments Ltd, Ardquade Wines Ltd, Canora Ltd, Malting Tower Ltd, Carlton Lane Ltd, Linconna Ltd and Okolan Ltd.
In the case of Okolan Ltd (currently listed for strike off), Ms Lemass serves as a co-director with Treasury's co-founder Richard Barrett as well as Mr Ronan.
None of the above firms are involved in Nama's recent move to appoint receivers to certain of Treasury's Irish assets.
The issue of loans taken by companies associated with Mr Ronan as opposed to loans taken by Treasury Holdings also managed to make the news last week by virtue of what well-placed sources described as "confusion" over the amounts being cited in media reports in relation to the face value of borrowings that had been taken over by Nama.
While Nama put the face value of the loans at a figure just below €2bn, sources close to Treasury countered that the sum was closer to €1.5bn with the balance of between €400m and €500m accounted for by loans taken by companies connected to Mr Ronan rather than Treasury Holdings itself.