Analysis

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Building on their wealth in the new Ireland

Ciaran Brennan

Published 03/09/2006|00:11

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SPECULATOR Sean Dunne may have been making all the headlines in his successful bid to acquire the Jurys Doyle hotels as part of his plans to transform Ballsbridge into a high-rise metropolis, but other Irish developers have been quietly going about their business in a more low-key manner. Many of these developers now find themselves among the richest, most successful business

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SPECULATOR Sean Dunne may have been making all the headlines in his successful bid to acquire the Jurys Doyle hotels as part of his plans to transform Ballsbridge into a high-rise metropolis, but other Irish developers have been quietly going about their business in a more low-key manner. Many of these developers now find themselves among the richest, most successful business people in the country.

Bernard McNamara Long before Bernard McNamara made his name in construction, he went into politics. He was a Fianna Fail county councillor in Clare for a short period in the early Eighties and stood as a candidate for the Dail but was narrowly defeated.

McNamara is one of the country's most prolific builders and developers, having extended his father's building business beyond its West of Ireland base when other construction outfits struggled to stay in business.

Not afraid of taking risks, and with a reputation as an innovator with a sharp business intellect, he has been involved in a number of public works, including the National Gallery, St Vincent's Hospital, the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore, the Blanchardstown civic offices for Fingal County Council.

With Jerry O'Reilly he also has significant hotel interests, the most recent of which was his purchase of the Parknasilla Hotel in Kerry. Both men are part of the group of eight investors who bought the Shelbourne Hotel. They developed the Radisson in Galway and in 2003 bought the Tara Towers from Jurys Doyle; they also own the Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel.

Jerry O'Reilly Jerry O'Reilly shares more than a love of GAA with Bernard McNamara. They have close business ties that long predate their involvement in the Superquinn takeover more than a year ago.

O'Reilly was initially the public face of one of their most high-profile developments - a ?500m mixed-use residential/commercial development on the Merrion Road in Dublin. Their company Radora bought the 14.5-acre prime site for just under ?46m from the Sisters of Charity in 2001.

Now in his late 50s, O'Reilly started out by financing agricultural building in his native Kerry. A quantity surveyor, he worked for the Murphy building empire in Britain before returning to Ireland in the mid-Eighties.

Since then he has amassed an extensive property portfolio of residential, office, retail and hotel developments, including the Aghadoe Heights Hotel in Kerry and a massive project with Sisks for a 27,870-sq m development at King's Island in Limerick.

John and Terry Sweeney John Sweeney's involvement in the Shelbourne Hotel acquisition and Terry Sweeney's contribution to the Superquinn takeover may have catapulted both men into the limelight in the past couple of years, but the two brothers from Clifden in Co Galway have been working away over the past 20 years building up interests in hotels, pubs and the oil business.

They have come a long way from the family business which involved the local post office, pub and farm. Terry started out by buying Clifden's EJ King pub and restaurant. He then bought the Westwood Hotel in Dangan and one of the largest pubs in Galway, Bosco Browns.

His first major Dublin investment was the development of the Schoolhouse at Northumberland Road.

John Sweeney owns Sweeney Oil, one of the West's largest oil distributors, and he bought the Johnstown Hotel in Enfield for ?13m. He has since invested up to ?30m in the property and rebranded it as a Marriott.

With Terry, he owns the Killarney Holiday Inn and Terry has an interest in a park-and-ride site at Dublin Airport.

Ray Grehan Ray Grehan surprised a few people when he out-bid Sean Dunne for the 2.05-acre site of UCD's former veterinary college in Ballsbridge, Dublin, in a deal worth ?171.5m.

However, it is now thought that Grehan and Dunne may team up at the end of this year for permission to develop their sites in Ballsbridge, transforming the Dublin 4 area into a high-rise city.

A native of Galway, he is chief executive of Glenkerrin Homes, a company he set up with his brother Danny after they had been plying their trades as tiling contractor and block-layer respectively.

They started off with eight sites in Maynooth. Grehan went on to develop Maynooth Business Campus and the Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth.

In 2004, Glenkerrin acquired the former Esso site at the Grange on the Stillorgan Road in south Dublin for ?86m and has already made more than ?100m from the sale of new apartments at the site. Grehan has been given the go-ahead for 577 apartments and houses on the former St Loman's Hospital site in west Dublin.

David Daly David Daly, the north Dublin builder who owns Albany Homes, is a former chief executive of Joe Moran's Manor Park Homebuilders. Daly is linked with three companies: Albany for selling houses; Trident for building them; and the Daly Group, a partnership with his wife Mary, largely for funding the other two.

Albany saw profits up 40 per cent to ?24.7m in the year ended September 2005. Turnover increased from ?86m to ?141m, ?101m of it from Irish housing sales and ?31m from Britain. The company has spent ?160m on site purchases in the last two years, largely from internal resources, but purchases have also been backed by BoI.

In 2002, he paid ?13.95m for a 5.5-acre site with full planning permission for 150 residential units on the Malahide Road and he also plans to build 1,100 homes at Nevinstown near Swords.

Garrett Kelleher When Garrett Kelleher arrived in Chicago in the mid-Eighties, he had $500 in his pocket. Last month, he announced plans to build a new $1.2bn skyscraper in the city which will be 2,000ft tall.

Sources say the $65m to acquire the site was financed by the Boston office of Anglo Irish Bank.

Kelleher made his name in Chicago, where he lived for 12 years. He started off in the painting and decorating business, then moved to renovating old properties.

He returned to Ireland in 1996 with his Shelbourne Development company and set about making inroads into the Irish property scene. Recently completed projects include 75 St Stephen's Green and Moore Street Plaza.

Shelbourne was also behind the redevelopment of the former Virgin Megastore site on Aston Quay and the hugely profitable Belgard Square Town Centre in Tallaght.

Brian O'Donnell Dublin-based commercial lawyer Brian O'Donnell and his wife Mary Patricia have been blazing a trail in the London property market of late and last year bought a 175,000 sq ft block in Canary Wharf for ?195m with backing from Deloitte Corporate Finance, Anglo Irish Bank and Lehman.

They also own substantial property in Dublin, including the Merrion Square headquarters of his law firm, Brian O'Donnell & Partners, which he set up in 1999 after leaving William Fry.

Last Friday, O'Donnell's investment firm Vico Capital sealed a deal to buy a London office lock for ?252m. Their portfolio also includes an office block off Merrion Square which is rented to the ESB and other retail and office premises in the city centre.

Apart from property, O'Donnell still has a lucrative business in corporate law and has recently advised on the sale of the Meath Chronicle to Dunfermline Press and the sale of the Midland Tribune to Alpha Newspapers. In the past, he has worked on the MBO of the Mater Private, the takeover of Wedgwood by Waterford Glass and the privatisation of Irish Life.

Joe O'Reilly and Liam Maye Joe O'Reilly and Liam Maye and their Castlethorn company are best-known for building the ?500m Dundrum Shopping Centre. Both men are from Longford. O'Reilly started out as a site manager with Manor Park Homes; Maye's background is in project finance.

Along with fellow Longford man Michael Whelan (see below), they are developing the ?2bn Adamstown project, essentially the creation of an entire new town near Lucan, which will house 20,000 people. The first phase was launched last February.

They are also developing a ?500m scheme with Sean Mulryan at the Royal Canal near Pelletstown, which will boast 1,400 apartments. Castlethorn recently acquired Woodbrook, a 50-acre site near Woodbrook golf club, near Bray, for ?160m.

Michael Whelan In recent months, it was revealed that Longford property tycoon Michael Whelan's family investment vehicle Moritz Holdings is to invest over ?60m in a mixed usedevelopment in Bucharest. A former carpenter, Whelan is best known as the name behind Maplewood Homes, one of the main companies behind the Adamstown development in west Dublin. In 2004, he paid ?230m to acquire a 300,000 sq ft office block in London.

Moritz Holdings had retained profit of ?17.3m on turnover of ?39.5m for 2004.

Michael Cotter Michael Cotter's Park Developments (Dublin) Ltd posted retained profits of over ?14m and turnover of over ?143m for 2004. Both he and his wife Angela are listed as directors for over 70 companies.

Cotter purchased Glencairn House, the former British ambassador's lands in Sandyford, for IR£26m in 1999 and built one of the original IR£1m house developments, Carrickmines Wood.

Backed in many of his investments by AIB, he is part of the consortium that won the competition to develop Carlisle Pier in Dun Laoghaire and is also on the board of the Rathdown Light Rail group which will contribute towards the cost of extending the Luas to Cherrywood.

Cotter has developed North West Business Park near Blanchardstown on nearly 200 acres, and owns land near Finglas and Dublin Airport.

John and Michael Taggart The Taggart brothers' attempt some years ago to acquire McInerney focused attention on the up-and-coming Derry-based builders. The offer was spurned and questions were raised about how the Taggarts were going to fund a bid for a company 10 times larger than theirs.

In 2004, the company, which has its headquarters in Derry, saw pre-tax profits grow by 18 per cent to ?12.8m.

Founded in 1989, the company has developed residential and commercial property in Northern Ireland and the Republic, and also has extensive interests in the UK, France, New Zealand, Slovakia and the United States.

It has up to 40 projects at various stages of development, including an eight-storey, mixed-use scheme in Bratislava, a scheme for 425 houses in Navan and a three-acre site in Brighton.

Cosgrave Brothers Sons of well-known property developer Joe Cosgrave, Joseph, Michael and Peter Cosgrave - all in their 40s - have earned a reputation for good-quality developments.

Cosgrave Property Group, was set up in 1979 and has been behind such successful developments as Gracepark Manor in Drumcondra and Ardilea in Clonskeagh.

The group came to prominence when it struck a deal with Dun Laoghaire Golf Club to provide it with a new Wicklow course and ?20m. The group will shortly submit a planning application for a ?1.5bn residential development in the first phase of its plans for the former club grounds, which sit on 78 acres.

The group owns the Radisson SAS Hotel and the George's Quay office complex in Dublin and a retail complex in Birmingham.

Last Month the Cosgraves bought a ?415m shopping centre in Romford, Essex.

David Arnold David Arnold's investment company D2 may have lost out in the bidding race to acquire London's landmark Covent Garden - but the company has been successful in a number of other transactions in the UK over the past number of years. It has already bought Woolgate Exchange, one of London's most prestigious office buildings, for ?480m, backed by Anglo Irish Bank.

Since its formation last year by Arnold, Brendan O'Mara and former Quinlan Private executive Deirdre Foley, the company has spent ?700m on property in London, including ?205m on the Marks & Spencer headquarters in Paddington. It bought 15 branches in the UK from Halifax Bank of Scotland for ?105m and is leasing them back over the next 19 years.

Before setting up D2, Arnold was a successful property investor and developer in his own right. He is a client of Quinlan Private, through which he owns a stake in the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin. He also owns property on Dublin's Mount Street, in Portugal and in the IFSC.

In July 1996 he bought the former Irish Press building from the company liquidator for ?1.65m and sold it within a month to the Irish Times, making a profit of ?1.5m.

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