Business Irish

Sunday 19 November 2017

Nama takes control of Britain's most expensive house

Updown Court in Windlesham, Surrey, which was a joint venture with Irish Nationwide
Updown Court in Windlesham, Surrey, which was a joint venture with Irish Nationwide

Emmet Oliver

The most expensive country house ever put on the UK market, and backed by Michael Fingleton's Irish Nationwide, is facing receivership action from NAMA within days, it is understood.

The 103-room Updown Court in Surrey, which has five swimming pools, was an Irish Nationwide joint venture and the building society lent £63m (e71m) to the project over several years. Irish Nationwide once held a board meeting there, it has also emerged.

Jeopardise

The developer Leslie Allen-Vercoe told the Irish Independent yesterday he had heard nothing from NAMA about the estate being put into receivership.

He said Mr Fingleton was very familiar with the project and had talked on several occasions with Mr Allen-Vercoe about its progress.

He added that the issue now was the best way for Irish taxpayers to get value from its sale. He said NAMA's move could jeopardise this.

Apart from the five swimming pools, the property also has a bowling alley, a cinema and an indoor squash court.

It failed to sell in 2005 for a price tag of £70m -- at the time the most expensive UK residence ever. It is understood NAMA may only need to sell Updown Court for £20m (e22.5m) to make a return, after it imposed a severe discount on the original loan.

Mr Allen-Vercoe said he was not personally liable for any of the debts and his only role in the project in the last year was to find a buyer. He said one British, one Russian and one Far East buyer had come forward. He added that if NAMA decided to appoint a receiver, it would be against the interests of Irish taxpayers as stamp-duty tax advantages could be lost.

Mr Allen-Vercoe said if the property market had not taken a downturn, the joint venture would have seen himself and Irish Nationwide taking a 50:50 share of the proceeds, once the loan had been discharged.

Irish Independent

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