Wednesday 13 December 2017

Bow Street Court sells to Qataris for over three times Nama 2010 sale price

Bow Street hosted the trials of Oscar Wilde and the Kray twins
Bow Street hosted the trials of Oscar Wilde and the Kray twins
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

A prime London building sold by one of Ireland's foremost developers for Stg£25m in 2010 has been acquired by Qatari investors BTC UK for over Stg£75m.

Galway developer Gerry Barrett's company Edward Holdings was obliged by Nama to sell the historic Bow Street Magistrates Court in Covent Garden in the depths of the global financial crisis to pay down his companies' debts to the State's so-called 'bad bank'. Barrett sold the 19th century listed former court building to Austrian hoteliers Rudolf and Christian Ploberger, having only acquired it himself four years previously for a sum believed to have been in the region of Stg£17m. BTC UK's total acquisition and development costs are expected to amount to approximately Stg£125m.

Prior to the cessation of its legal operations and closure in 2006, the Grade II-listed Bow Street building had served as the location for some of Britain's highest-profile trials, where the defendants included the likes of Oscar Wilde and the infamous East End gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Bow Street had at one point in its storied history also accommodated London's first professional police force, the renowned Bow Street Runners.

The 90,000 sq ft court facility which is located in the heart of one of London's foremost retail and leisure districts, was granted planning permission in 2013 for conversion into a 100-bedroom hotel and museum.

Commenting on the property's future, BTC UK managing director Mehdi Ghalaie said it was an "iconic part of London's heritage" which would now be brought back into public use.

He said: "After many years under different owners, our focus is now on delivering a world-class boutique hotel that befits this historic building.

"We will be engaging with English Heritage, Westminster City Council and the Metropolitan Police in our planning process to maintain the building's illustrious legal heritage and history and to ensure that the traditions and spirit of Bow Street are preserved.

"The acquisition further enhances our expanding hospitality credentials in the UK and reflects our desire to develop businesses that provide an unparalleled customer experience," Ghalaie added.

BTC UK -the UK arm of BTC in Doha - was established in 2015. The company entered the UK market through its acquisition first of the Soho Coffee Company, and later Apostrophe cafés and the Euphorium Bakery in 2016.

Bow Street's one-time owner, Gerry Barrett, meanwhile saw his companies' Nama loans sold to Deutsche Bank at a discount of 88pc last year.

While the Barrett portfolio - code-named Project Maeve - had a par value of some €778m, Deutsche Bank is understood to have paid in the region of €97m to acquire it.

The loan book's major assets included three well-known Irish hotels - The G Hotel in Galway, the D Hotel in Drogheda, and the Hotel Meyrick in Galway - as well as the Scotch Hall Shopping Centre in Drogheda.

Barrett first made his name as a developer in Galway in the 1990s.

As one of the former Anglo Irish Bank's leading clients, he made headlines in 2007 after he acquired Ashford Castle for a sum close to €55m. The hotel ended up in receivership in 2011, and was eventually bought by a South African firm Red Carnation Hotels.

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