O'Brien gains control of Topaz as Davy partners buy stockbroker
Businessman Denis O'Brien is set to gain control of Ireland's biggest petrol retailer while investment company Doughty Hanson has bought back its loans in TV3.
Mr O'Brien (pictured), the founder of the mobile phone company Digicel and a key shareholder in the publisher of this newspaper, is set to buy €304m worth of loans linked to Topaz, sources involved in the sale told the Irish Independent yesterday.
Topaz has 330 service stations across Ireland. Mr O'Brien's spokesman did not respond to questions.
The Topaz deal is part of a loan auction that also included the debt of businesses including Arnotts and the 'Racing Post'. Final bids closed last Friday and the special liquidator is now selling the loans in most cases. At least four sale deals have been agreed, it is understood.
Private equity manager Doughty Hanson said last night that it bought €250m debt attached to TV3. David McRedmond, who is the chief executive of TV3, said the deal ended "an uncertain period for the company".
Finance Minister Michael Noonan welcomed the conclusion of the bidding phase, saying that the special liquidators expect that 84pc of the portfolio will be sold to third parties for prices in excess of the independent valuations.
The remainder will go to NAMA. About €2.5bn face value worth of loans were put up for sale as part of the €22bn IBRC liquidation.
Mr O'Brien fought off Topaz founder Neil O'Leary's finance company Ion Equity and a consortium that included Mark McGoldrick's Mount Kellett and Goldman Sachs.
Davy Stockbrokers confirmed last night that partners had bought the €140m debt linked to a management buy-out with financing from Bank of Ireland.
Horse-racing industry legend and former Liverpool football club chairman Martin Broughton, meanwhile, failed in a bid on the €200m 'Racing Post' debt and was knocked out in an earlier round.
"Sports Investment Partners did not get through the first round bidding process and are not one of the two second round bidders," he said.
Dublin private equity group FL Partners was said by one source to have bought some of its borrowing but to have also been unsuccessful on the 'Racing Post'.
The fate of the half of the loans linked to Arnotts was still unclear. The other half of the loans belonged to Ulster Bank.
Two sources said a unit of US fund Apollo was a surprise late bidder but other bidders include an Arnotts management consortium involving investor Meyer Bergman.
The Brown Thomas-owning Weston retail dynasty, which snapped up the department store's Ulster Bank loans, was also a bidder.
It is not known whether pharma tycoon Seamus Mulligan, the founder of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, is among those to buy back debt, with his loans relating to the Four Seasons hotel in Prague.
Borrowers are said to have had the edge in bidding for their own loans. The level of information available to non-borrower bidders was criticised by some bidders as having been too sparse.
Dialogue was continuing yesterday between bidders and KPMG.
Big-name investors looked over the data on this book of trading businesses, including John Grayken's Lone Star and Kennedy Wilson.