Tuesday 24 October 2017

US tycoon sets sights on Mount Juliet golf resort

John 'Cable King' Malone targets more Irish assets

US tycoon John Malone
US tycoon John Malone

Roisin Burke

Irish-American billionaire 'Cable King' John Malone has set his sights on the €15m Mount Juliet golf resort as part of his ongoing Irish acquisition spree.

Malone, who Forbes values at worth €5bn from a fortune made in the cable TV industry, is also seeking to invest in a stud farm enterprise here to breed and train thoroughbred horses and has toured John Magnier's Coolemore and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Kildangan.

"We would look at it possibly for its golf aspect," he said of Mount Juliet, speaking to the Sunday Independent on Friday.

"We're not aggressively pursuing it but we will look at it."

If successful, he would join a cadre of wealthy golf resort owners here that includes Donald Trump, Michael Smurfit and the Chinese Kang family.

The golf business rather than the country club itself is of more interest, as "while the Dublin hotel market is recovering, for country hotels in Ireland being such a seasonal business you need to know what you're doing", he said.

Key Capital is currently running a process to sell Mount Juliet for around €15m.

Malone, who chairs UPC owner Liberty Global, said he was also in the market for more high-end Dublin hotels and has bid on a number of office blocks, including Google's €65m headquarters in the city's silicon docks area.

He was among the bidders outbid by the search giant itself, which bought the building from Nama.

As hotels like the Westin and developer Sean Dunne's former Berkeley Court and Jury's hit the market, Malone said his team was bidding on "pretty much everything of quality".

He said that he suspects the value has gone out of the top office market in Dublin.

"I'm not saying it's a bubble but the valuations have got pretty tight, and the yields are tight," he said.

He owns Humewood, a 500-acre country estate in Wicklow, which he is restoring for use as a family base in Ireland.

"It could ultimately go back to being a boutique hotel but for now we want to take it back as a house, a family retreat, once we get it restored," he said.

When the restoration of the 18-bedroom Victorian castle style house at Humewood is complete, he and his wife hope to spend more time in Ireland and look at land and stud farm prospects.

"Hopefully in 2015 we will be able to come over and base ourselves there," he said.

"It would also be place for me to entertain and for board and executive team retreats," he said.

Malone, who is the biggest private landowner in the US and has over two million acres in several parts of the States, has ambitions to buy a big tract of land here that he would invest in protecting as a conservation area.

"We would be able to preserve a big beautiful area and hopefully work with government and privately to maintain something unique," he said.

Malone's roots go back to Cork, from where his ancestors left Famine-era Ireland for the US.

Galway developer John Lally and former stockbroker Paul Higgins are Malone's Irish market team and lead his plays on acquisitions here.

Sunday Indo Business

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