Monday 23 April 2018

NAMA embroiled in law suit at luxury US golf club

Former Quinlan country club facility sold but chief executive claims pay and bonuses

Emmet Oliver, Deputy Business Editor

NAMA has found itself embroiled in a legal dispute over salaries and bonuses at the US golf complex and country club facility, the Georgia Club, which was previously owned by developer Derek Quinlan and others.

While NAMA has forced the sale of the club recently, the chief executive of the company which owned it has filed a suit seeking unpaid bonuses, outstanding salary and a company car allowance.

Several million dollars are at stake, with NAMA expected to file a response shortly.

In a 14-page civil suit, seen by the Irish Independent, James Vanden Berg claims NAMA has effectively been controlling the club, after taking over loans given to Mr Quinlan by Anglo Irish Bank.

As a result Mr Vanden Berg has filed his suit against the state agency, although lawyers for Anglo have also been included as parties in the suit.

The Georgia Club, which is aimed at affluent business people and those travelling to Atlanta, has struggled due to the property downturn, with its value being reduced sharply.

Real estate

However, real estate funds did come forward recently to buy the facility, helping Mr Quinlan to clear some of his debts with the agency.

It was owned until recently by a company called Barber Creek and Mr Vanden Berg was the chief executive of this company.

According to his suit, NAMA exercised strong control over the facility, watching spending and making decisions on staffing and employee benefits.

Mr Vanden Berg, as CEO, is claiming a $500 monthly car allowance and also claims he is owed a bonus of $175,000 (€126,000).

Mr Vanden Berg was also paid, according to his suit, an annual salary of $276,000. He also argues that bonuses for 2011 have not been paid and claims that more long-term bonuses, agreed in previous years, are also outstanding.

Mr Vanden Berg believes that when NAMA took over the security on the property from Anglo, all previous agreements became a matter for NAMA.

"The agreement is a valid and enforceable contract,'' said Mr Vanden Berg.

Lawyers for NAMA are expected to respond shortly and are expected to defend its position. Mr Quinlan is not mentioned at all in the suit.

Meanwhile, NAMA representatives will appear today before the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts. Large impairments on its assets are expected to be among questions teased out by members.

Irish Independent

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