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Harcourt sells off Las Vegas site in $14m deal

In 2006, Pat Doherty's firm planned to invest $800m in the Sullivan Square site, writes Sean Pollock


Harcourt founder Pat Doherty

Harcourt founder Pat Doherty

Harcourt founder Pat Doherty

Harcourt Developments, one of Ireland's largest construction firms, has sold land it acquired in Las Vegas during the boom for $14m (€12.6m).

The land was previously earmarked by Harcourt, founded by Pat Doherty, in 2006 for the Sullivan Square development, which would have included 1,380 residential units, 45,000 sq ft (4,180 sq m) of retail and 272,000 sq ft of office space in an investment which could have been worth $800m.

The site stood six miles from the famous Las Vegas strip and was to be modelled on neighbourhoods in New York, Chicago and Montreal.

Life Time, a US-based gym company, purchased nearly 15 acres of the land from Harcourt.

A deal to sell the land was concluded in November, but further details emerged last week after the purchaser submitted a planning application with local Clark County commissioners to develop a three-storey gym on the site.

In 2006, Doherty's Harcourt teamed up with local Las Vegas developer Glen, Smith and Glen to build the 16.5-acre Sullivan Square.

Harcourt had agreed to fund the $800m construction cost in the gambling mecca by lending the entire amount to the local developer.

At the time, it represented Harcourt's largest-ever overseas investment and was due to be completed by 2013.

According to a 2008 article in the Irish Independent, the development was to have two 20-storey towers and a range of low-rise buildings.

Prices for apartments were to start at $327,000 for studios and rise to $1.8m for 1,900 sq ft two-storey penthouses.

Speaking in February 2008, former Harcourt director and broadcaster Mike Murphy said the development would appeal to locals. "This is not for tourists," he said. "This is not a casino. This is for people who are moving to Las Vegas. It is for residents, so we believe it will appeal."

By April, the project hit a stumbling block when Glen, Smith and Glen filed a lawsuit, alleging that Harcourt had defaulted several times on its obligations to fund the Sullivan Square project. The lawsuit claimed that this resulted in contractors and consultants working on the development not being paid.

In 2008, the cases were dismissed by a US judge. Glen, Smith and Glen revived the lawsuit later that same year.

In a 2009 counter-claim, Harcourt said it lost "tens of millions of dollars" on the US property deal, after falling victim to an elaborate fraud involving sham condominium sales and fictitious front companies.

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It alleged that Glen, Smith and Glen conspired to lie about the pace of the Las Vegas development and made "multiple poor decisions'' that resulted in Harcourt losing more than $20m.

According to the Las Vegas Review, Glen, Smith and Glen later went out of business. It was not involved in the $14m sale of the land.

Harcourt Developments failed to respond to a request for comment.

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