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Developer's €379m swoop on 10-acre site has cost him dearly

SEAN Dunne's €379m swoop on a 10-acre patch of Ballsbridge was one of the most audacious plays of the property boom, but the latest accounts for the developer's main holding company show the move has cost him dearly.

Having spent four years planning and clashing with everyone from local residents to the formidable Dermot Desmond, the Baron of Ballsbridge has yet to secure the nod from An Bord Pleanala.

As Mr Dunne's plans for a 37-storey tower stagnated, the property market went into freefall, prompting the developer's DCD Builders to write-down the Ballsbridge sites by €160m in the year ended July 2008.

The writedowns came just a year after the DCD's directors claimed there was no need to revalue any of the company's assets. By the summer of 2008, the problem had simply become too big to ignore.


The banks are into DCD for €760m, conservative estimates suggest the company could need another €500m to fund out the Ballsbridge project, a cash injection that could be difficult to secure given Irish banks' troubled recent history with major development projects.

The devastated state of the property market which Mr Dunne will be selling his mixed-use development into is likely to further spook the banks and further depresses the potential upside for DCD.

The Ballsbridge property play has also left Mr Dunne with three trading hotels on his hands in a brutal hotel market and after initially bringing in veteran hotelier John Brennan to run them, Mr Dunne is now flying solo following a stormy parting with the hotel veteran.

It's all a far cry from the glittering €1bn development that was to turn Ballsbrige into our very own Knightsbridge, but Dunne's demeanour is nothing if not resilient. As he told the 'New York Times' last year, "This is the way God made me, with heavy shoulders and an ability to carry a great load".

Irish Independent