Monday 22 October 2018

Anglo-backed hotel was sold to ex-Anglo banker

Firm also moved for Anglo-controlled Arnotts


THE former head of Nama loan valuations at Anglo Irish Bank played a key role, just months after leaving it, in the purchase by a multi-billion euro UK property investment firm of Dublin's Four Seasons Hotel -- whose former owners owed €50m to the State-owned bank -- and had previously worked in a London office of the agents that handled the sale of the hotel, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Niall Gunne, a chartered surveyor who previously worked in a property valuation team in London for global property firm CBRE, was employed in the role at Anglo for the year up to August 2010, having previously worked in the US where he was involved in acquiring investment properties for wealthy clients of Anglo's UK and Ireland private banking operations.

He then became Irish managing director of UK-based London and Regional Properties (LRP) -- and snapped up two properties on behalf of secretive British founders Ian and Richard Livingstone, owners of a property empire worth more than €5bn, one of which was the Four Seasons.

It is understood the loan on the hotel was not transferred to Nama and Anglo was not responsible for selling the hotel, but that the bank had consented to the sale to LRP in June of this year, which was handled by the Dublin office of CBRE, a firm for which Gunne had previously worked in London.

CBRE is also one of the firms appointed by Nama to provide property valuation and other services here and in the US and UK.

The Four Seasons' previous owners, an investment syndicate known as the Nollaig Partnership, included Nama client developers David Arnold, Derek Quinlan and Alan and Niall McCormack. Hotelier Francis Brennan, ex-AIB chairman Dermot Gleeson and former Anglo director Lar Bradshaw were also members of the syndicate.

It is understood that while the syndicate owed Anglo just under €50m, the hotel sold for about €15m and the bank had recourse to just €5m. Tax breaks that some members received on their investment were thought to be worth up to €250,000 a year.

LRP was a prospective bidder for iconic department store Arnotts last year, according to reports.

Last September the firm paid €20m for the Eircom management centre in Citywest, the nerve centre from where the nation's entire telecoms network is monitored.

LRP owns over €1bn-worth of properties in Germany, including the five-star Hilton hotel in Frankfurt, mixed developments in Panama and South Africa, and a UK portfolio worth more than €4bn, according to its website.

A spokeswoman for Anglo Irish Bank declined to comment. Mr Gunne also declined to comment.

Sunday Indo Business

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