Thursday 23 November 2017

Firm owned by Deirdre Foley makes €450k from controversial closure of iconic Dublin store and loss of 130 jobs

Deirdre Foley Photo: Tony Gavin
Deirdre Foley Photo: Tony Gavin

Gordon Deegan

A firm owned by the businesswoman at the centre of the controversial closure of the iconic Dublin store Clerys and redevelopment of the site last year made almost €450,000 from the project.

In the chain of events that resulted in the store's closure and loss of 130 jobs in 2015, Deirdre Foley's Natrium emerged as the consortium behind the purchase of the Clerys building.

The store was sold by US private equity firm Gordon Brothers to Ms Foley's and Cheyne Capital's Natrium consortium for €29m. Natrium kept the property arm and flipped the operating business to Jim Brydie, an insolvency practitioner who promptly put the business into liquidation. Ms Foley has a 20pc interest in Natrium and is the public face of the company.

Now, new accounts for Natrium show that Ms Foley's company billed Natrium €485,135 for services during 2016. Only €38,944 of that amount was due to FAM Acquisitions at the end of last year showing it received €446,191 for its services in 2016.

This followed FAM Acquisitions billing Natrium €259,450 in 2015.

Natrium's subsidiary, OCS Properties, is behind the €150m redevelopment of Clerys and last year recorded profits of €7m. However, this is largely as a result of a €10m increase in the valuation of the Clerys property, which had a book value of €41m at the end of December last.

Deirdre Foley has a 20pc stake in Natrium, the firm which bought the iconic Clerys store for €29m. Photo: Collins Courts.
Deirdre Foley has a 20pc stake in Natrium, the firm which bought the iconic Clerys store for €29m. Photo: Collins Courts.

The €10m increase in the value of the property followed a €13m uplift in the value in 2015.

Earlier this year, OCS Properties received the go-ahead to proceed with the €150m mixed use redevelopment of the store.

This followed Ms Foley reaching agreement with Siptu after the union withdrew its appeal to An Bord Pleanála against the plan getting the go-ahead. It was reported that the former Clerys workers will share a compensation package of more than €1m.

Documents lodged with the city council by OCS Properties show that the so-called 'Project D1' will create 3,990 jobs. Numbers employed by OCS at Clerys declined from 280 in 2009 and 130 in 2015.

Architects Henry J Lyons told the council the proposal "seeks to generate a vibrant quarter within the centre of the city which will see the repair, restoration and regeneration of the original Clerys building". The planning consultant for OCS, John Spain has stated that the proposal "will bring life back to O'Connell Street, increase footfall, increase tourism through the creation of a retail destination and provide much-needed additional hotel rooms".

Mr Spain said that a study by economic consultants has found that the Clerys redevelopment will produce an annual economic dividend of €329m for the economy.

He went on to state the proposed development "would revive and enhance the social and cultural importance of the Clery's site and act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the wider area".

"In addition, the scheme will create substantial employment opportunities and help to create a safer city centre."

The Natrium accounts show that a sister firm of OCS Properties, OCS Investment Holdings last year recording a loss of €1.79m. Accumulated losses at Natrium last year increased from €364,804 to €2.6m.

Ms Foley is facing charges in the district court arising from the collective redundancies at Clerys. She faces three counts of breaking the protection of employment law in a case due to be heard before Dublin District Court.

Irish Independent

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