Wednesday 21 February 2018

Developer Johnny Ronan sets sights on AIB HQ in deal worth over €50m

Developer Johnny Ronan, who is on the verge of buying part of the bank’s headquarters
Developer Johnny Ronan, who is on the verge of buying part of the bank’s headquarters
The site of AIB Centre on Merrion Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
The site of AIB Centre on Merrion Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

Developer Johnny Ronan is on the verge of buying part of AIB's headquarters in Dublin in a deal worth more than €50m.

Mr Ronan is understood to have agreed terms to buy the site, which includes four vacant office blocks at AIB's Bankcentre.

A group led by Mr Ronan and financed by Cardinal Capital is understood to be the highest bidder for the property.

Other bidders are said to include Greg Kavanagh's New Generation Homes.

The deal will set the scene for a huge redevelopment of the site and will also bring back memories of the 'Battle for Ballsbridge' during the Celtic Tiger era, when developers forked out hundreds of millions of euro for properties in the area.

The AIB site was purchased by the now bust developer Seán Dunne for some €200m in 2006. It is being sold on the instructions of a receiver appointed by Ulster Bank and Nama.

On Wednesday it emerged that another Celtic Tiger developer, Joe O'Reilly, is set to buy the former Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels for close to €160m. Mr Dunne bought that for €380m a decade ago.

The AIB site is in one of the top locations in the capital, but it will arguably be more valuable if it is redeveloped. AIB moved out of the four 1970s-era office blocks on the site before Christmas last year and they have been vacant since.

They may be rented out while plans are put together to redevelop the property.


Reflecting an era when large tracts of land were given over to surface car parks and landscaping, the buildings themselves only occupy about a fifth of the property, creating huge scope for new construction.

A study suggested that the site could house as much as 300,000sq.ft of office space, which would be enormous by Irish standards.

However there is no planning permission in place at present.

Any application for redevelopment will likely face stiff opposition from local residents, even if it involves the extension of the existing blocks, rather than outright demolition.

When Mr Dunne tried to build offices and apartments on the Jurys and Berkeley Court site, his plans faced mass objections from the area's residents.

If a redevelopment does go ahead, it will cost in the region of €60m at a minimum.

Knight Frank, which has been handling the sale along with Eastdil Secured, declined to comment, as did spokesmen for Nama and Ulster Bank.

A message left with Mr Ronan's Ronan Group was not returned. A spokesman for Cardinal Capital also declined to comment.

Mr Ronan is also working on plans to build a 22-storey tower at Tara Street in central Dublin, which would cost around €130m. Cardinal Capital is backing him in that deal as well.

Cardinal is a Dublin-based investment group that is supported in part by the US financier Wilbur Ross.

The billionaire has made a fortune in Ireland since the crash, notably through the purchase and resale of a stake in Bank of Ireland.

Irish Independent

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