Business Irish

Saturday 16 December 2017

Harry Crosbie in court challenge to Nama over seizure of theatre

Developer Harry Crosbie believes that Nama had no legal right to take control of the Bord Gais Theatre (inset).
Developer Harry Crosbie believes that Nama had no legal right to take control of the Bord Gais Theatre (inset).

RONALD QUINLAN Special Correspondent

DEVELOPER Harry Crosbie is to issue legal proceedings against Nama in a bid to regain control of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin.

The Sunday Independent understands that lawyers for the Dublin-born businessman will mount within weeks what one source familiar with the matter has described as a "full-scale legal challenge".

It will question both the validity of Nama's original decision to take control of the loans behind the Dublin venue and its subsequent appointment of receivers to it.

News of Mr Crosbie's intended action comes as a decision is awaited on an application by Nama to the High Court for summary judg- ement of €77m against him.

While Mr Justice David Keane has yet to decide if he will rule in favour of Nama or allow Mr Crosbie to bring his case to the Commercial Court for a full trial, the developer's latest move makes it clear that he intends to use every legal avenue available to him to defend his business.

In questioning the original transfer of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre's borrowings from the AIB to Nama, it is understood Mr Crosbie will argue that neither the theatre nor its debt were "eligible assets" under the terms of the Nama legislation and therefore should never have been taken over by the State's so-called 'bad bank'.

"The theatre was a standalone and separate piece of business conducted by Mr Crosbie with AIB. It hadn't been completed, the loans behind it hadn't been drawn down within the period Nama specifies for eligible assets in the Nama Act. It should never have been in Nama in the first place," a source claimed.

While Mr Crosbie's lawyers are preparing a comprehensive challenge to Nama's conduct in relation to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, the Sunday Independent understands that the developer will seek an immediate injunction if necessary to prevent Nama from selling the venue prior to the outcome of the legal action he intends to take.

The 65-year-old businessman will more than likely have to seek that injunction, given the move last month by the theatre's receivers, Grant Thornton, to issue a tender for property and real estate agents to handle its sale.

The announcement of the tender came after Nama had formally sanctioned its disposal.

Prior to being taken over by Nama, the 2,000-seat theatre had been one of the jewels in the empire that Mr Crosbie built up over several decades in Dublin's docklands.

Among his other iconic developments are the O2 and its precursor, the Point, and the Convention Centre, which he developed in conjunction with Treasury Holdings.

While Nama has made a number of serious allegations against Mr Crosbie in relation to his alleged lack of co-operation with it, property industry insiders admitted last week to being struck by the irony of the State agency welcoming the approval by An Bord Pleanala of fast-track planning schemes for the docklands while simultaneously pursuing the man whose vision saw the area's renewal in the first place.

One of them said: "There are plenty of experts who will tell you the regeneration of the docklands was always going to happen, that it was inevitable. But Harry Crosbie was there first."

When contacted, Nama declined to comment .

Sunday Independent

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