Saturday 21 April 2018

Back to the future for Ronan and London's Battersea?

Johnny Ronan has sky-high ambitions
Johnny Ronan has sky-high ambitions
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Buccaneering developer Johnny Ronan made a splash in the media late last month with his interview in Property Week. In it he drew on a tale about his past ambitions for one of the world's most iconic buildings, the Empire State Building.

But London's Battersea Power Station is never far from his thoughts. He lamented his belief that the State would have shared in a multi-billion euro profit if Nama had allowed Treasury Holdings to proceed with its redevelopment plans.

"Battersea Power Station is, and will be, the success we always knew it would be. C'est la vie. Never look back," he said.

But I hear that Ronan may in fact be tempted to look back at Battersea. My property insiders tell me that Ilias Kotzampasis is now working with Ronan's RGRE as a corporate finance consultant. He has an excellent understanding of Battersea as he was investment management director at Battersea Power Station from October 2013 to February 2016. In his role with RGRE, he will focus on financial modelling for the larger development sites in the portfolio.

When Ronan was asked about his long-standing ambitions, he replied that he would like to "acquire something equal, or very similar to, Battersea". Buying back Battersea sounds like an audacious plan, but as the Empire State anecdote proved, his ambitions are sky-high.

Mod cons for owners of 12 new luxury Merrion pads

you know the boom is getting boomer (to borrow a phrase from Bertie) when there are queues snaking around show apartments and boutique shoeboxes masquerading as habitable residences are flying off the plans.

But one establishment that never had a problem selling its wares is Dublin's Merrion Hotel, which I hear has sold all 12 luxury apartments as part of the revamp of the landmark five-star auberge.

Residents of the Merrion, where the annual service charge is a tidy €8,000 or so, not only have access to the hotel's gym and swimming pool. They'll also be able to avail of a new in-house dry cleaning and laundry service.

And they will also be able to dine out all day in a new 120-plus seater restaurant - which I can reveal will be called The Garden Room - and is already heating up ahead of the autumn launch. Definitely not your common or garden pied-a-terre.

No Brexit chill at Keelings as fruit seller plans for the future

Brexit has fallen upon the heretofore blooming Irish food industry like an early winter frost. But there are plenty of hardy perennials in the sector. Out in north county Dublin, Keelings - the country's biggest fruit and veg producer and seller - looks set for further growth despite the easterly chill. Keeling's customer base already includes the likes of Marks & Spencer, SuperValu and Dunnes Stores, with revenue in excess of €300m.

It has applied for planning permission for "a new food market building for the preparation, packaging, storage, sale and distribution of seasonally sourced (local and imported) fruit, vegetables, food and fresh produce."

The planning application betrays no hint as to the level of investment involved but given that it includes 83 new car spaces it is likely a significant venture. Keelings declined to give details. Evidently, the Brexit uncertainty is not enough to halt the growth of one of Ireland's juiciest food firms.

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